Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stuffed Shells

Yum!!! This was so delicious.  Serious comfort food.  I think I might even like stuffed shells better than lasagna (what?! you say)  I know! But they are really good, fun to make and something about them just makes me like really happy.  But I am easily pleased.  I adapted this recipe from one I found on the pioneer woman's site.  I didn't have any fresh basil, which she uses in her filling, and probably would have been awesome, but it didn't really suffer.  Brandon and I got 3 dinner's and a lunch out of this dish (and we ate a lot so normal people might get even more!).   Here's how you make this.


8 oz jumbo pasta shells


30 oz (weight) whole milk ricotta cheese
8 oz (weight) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 whole egg
2 T. minced parsley
(12 basil leaves, chiffonade)
salt and pepper to taste


2 T. oilve oil
1/2 whole medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pounds italian sausage
(1/2 cup red wine) (optional - I did not use)
1 whole 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 whole 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
2 T. minced parsley


1.  Cook pasta shells for half the cooking time.  Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.

2.  Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat, add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes, until unions are soft.

3.  Add italian sausage and brown, breaking up into small pieces with a flat wooden spoon.

4.  Add crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted. sooo yummy!), sugar and salt and hot red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 5.  While sauce cooks, make filling by combining ricotta, half the Parmesan, Romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil if using (I added some dried basil), and 2 T. Parsley.  Stir until combined.

6.  Assemble!  Preheat oven to 350.  Coat bottom of baking dish with sauce (I used a 9 X 13 inch glass pan).

Fill each half-cooked shell with ricotta mixture (that is NOT my hand by the way!) (Brandon helped)

Place face down on sauce.  Repeat with remaining shells until cheese mixture is gone.

Cover with remaining sauce.

Sprinkle with remaining shredded Parmesan cheese

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  Serve with garlic bread or other crusty bread.


Homemade Hummus

I see no reason to ever buy store bought hummus again.  I mean that.  Will I ever do it?  Yeah, probably.  And I will kick myself for it. At the store, in the checkout line, on the drive home, as I peel back the plastic, and with each bite.  Why such strong feelings? Because this is SO SUPER EASY to make.  And it just tastes sooo much better made at home.  Really.  The only special ingredient you need is Tahini.  And you can keep that in your fridge for awhile.  And if you live near an Indian grocery store, you can get it for soooo super cheap for a huge thing.  DO NOT BUY IT AT A REGULAR STORE! They will overcharge you!


2 cans garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid from one can)
2-4 Tbs tahini (to taste)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
2 (or more) garlic cloves

optional additions:

pinch cayenne (I used)
pinch cumin
roasted red pepper

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend.  Add reserved liquid from chickpeas until hummus is desired consistency.

Top with some good olive oil, chopped parsley and paprika.  Serve with raw veggies or toasted pita chips (TOAST THEM THEY ARE SO GOOD THAT WAY!)


Carrot Walnut Currant No-Knead Bread

This is one of my favorite recipes from Jim Lahey's book.  Fresh squeezed carrot juice (I buy organic carrot juice and use that but it would be even more awesomer to make your own!) is subtle and it combines with the currants and walnuts for a rich flavor that is unusual and so satisfying.  It is also crusted with cumin seeds which adds another something something. LOVE IT. 

Here's what ya need:

3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed carrot juice
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
additional flour for dusting
1 T. cumin seeds

Here's what you do (so simple!). Combine flour, salt and dry yeast, then add carrot juice...

Mix that together with a wooden spoon or your fingers

Add nuts and currants.  Mix that in.

Let dough sit in a warm, draft-free spot (to the extent you have one in winter!) and loosely cover it with plastic wrap or a dish towel, for 12 to 18 (ideally 18) hours until the surface is dotted with bubbles and it has more than doubled in size, like so:

Turn it out onto a generously floured work surface, using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to get it out in one piece.  Using lightly floured hands, or a bowl scraper, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center.  Nude and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round, like so:

Place a kitchen towel or tea towel on your work surface, generously (really generously!!) dust it with flour and sprinkle on the cumin seeds.  Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down (so it is being coated in cumin seeds).  Dust top with flour and loosely fold ends of towel over the dough to cov er it and place it in a warm draft free spot to rise for another 1 to 2 hours.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, put a covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart heavy pot or dutch oven on the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Using pot holders, carefully remove preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up.  Cover pot and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove lid and bake until bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 20 minutes more.  Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it onto a rack to cool completely. 

 Slice and enjoy!