Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stuffed Shells

When someone who doesn't really cook decides they are going to make a fancy dinner for someone else, how often is it stuffed shells? I feel like it's pretty often. When we think of the fanciest dinner we had in our youth, I feel like it was stuffed shells at an Italian restaurant that you went to with your family for someone's birthday. There's something amazing about creamy ricotta, or ricotta-like cheese with herbs stuffed inside pasta, then smothered in tomato sauce. It's like lasagna, except you get more of it per person without looking weird. 


Stuffed shells are fancy-looking and satisfying but relatively brainless to put together. I mean, you've made them at least 500 times, so it's not like you're using much of the much-needed and reserved brain power you've got left after a ten-hour shift and an hour train-ride home. So just when you think you've got only enough juice left to burn out on the couch with Chinese take-out and an episode of Parks and Rec, wait. You can definitely make shells. It's almost easier than calling for the take-out.


If you have a stock-pile of tomato sauce you made in your fridge, say from a pizza cooking marathon, you could definitely use that, so this is extra-home-made. A jar of purchased sauce will work fine too, your shells will be none the worse for it.


Fancy dinner achieved! On a Tuesday! Visions of frozen nuggets and greasy take-out haunted you all afternoon, but you emerged victorious. Also, shells for days. And days.


So fancy, you break out the actual table for dinner. Now that's saying something.

Cashew-Lentil Stuffed Shells

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 block firm tofu
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup nooch
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1 can lentils, drained, or boil about 1 cup dried.
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine, or water

2-3 cups tomato sauce

Boil water for pasta. 
Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion and garlic until lightly browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils and dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring. Deglaze pan with wine, and scrape bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat.
In a blender, blend tofu, cashews, nooch, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper until smooth. Combine this mixture in a bowl with the lentils and fold together. 
Boil the shells about 9 minutes, and preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Spray a huge baking dish with cooking spray and spread about 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Drain shells and stuff a large spoonful of the cashew-lentil mixture into the shell and place it in the dish. Repeat with remaining shells. Pour another cup and a half of tomato sauce over the stuffed shells and cover with foil. Bake about 25 minutes. Shells should be cooked all the way through. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

4 comments:

  1. These look great; I haven't had stuffed shells for such a long time!

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  2. wow this look s great - and what is the side dish you served it with - I have lots of large shells so am thinking of trying stuffing some

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! It's just some sauteed spinach and garlic with white beans and white wine too alongside. Easy.

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