Well here I am, a little over a year since my last post! I’m sure many of you are as shocked as I am that we are days away from a new year and a new decade. For those of you that have asked, yes I am still cooking, creating recipes and taking a photo of the results now and again. However, the routine of food blogging has been severely impacted by my other passion: fiber arts. I had the opportunity, this year, to take many classes, learn new skills and sharpen old ones. I currently have 3-4 knitting projects, 2 macrame projects and 1 very large weaving project underway! Next up, I want to learn to spin my own yarn. Thankfully, I am surrounded by like minded crafters, teachers and fiber options! I hope to add a Fiber Art page to this blog. I may even post a few things for sale.
Getting settled in a new community and a new home has been extremely rewarding, yet extremely time consuming. September marked the one year anniversary of our exit from the “big city” to our rural, peaceful, serene home. We completed many projects our first year: raised garden beds, a railing for the deck, lots of landscaping including over 25 trees, dozens of hydrangeas, lilacs, and rhodies, as well as new lawn. Those raised garden beds were stuffed full of veggies all summer. Some are still producing in spite of winter temperatures. We no longer have 5 stores within a mile of us, so our garden and our giant freezer are very important to daily life. I am looking forward to a slower paced spring and summer, with only one or two construction projects and a lot more time on the beach.
We routinely cook the recipes here on the blog. Sometimes I’m surprised by the ones that have not been posted, like these Stuffed Shells. They are really a fun, basic little pasta recipe that can be customized to your specific taste and diet. Easily converted to be vegetarian and/or gluten free with substitutions for the pasta, sausage and cheeses.
For the Stuffed Shells
1 box (12 ounces) jumbo pasta shells
4 cups marinara sauce, home made or store bought
16 ounces bulk Italian sausage: chicken, pork, or vegetarian
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 ounces frozen chopped baby spinach, cooked 3-4 minutes in the microwave (or steamed) and well drained
10 large mushrooms, stems removed, tops diced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
12 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
12 ounces shredded mozzarella, plus more for topping
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Cook the pasta shells according to directions. Do not overcook, as they will be baked after being stuffed. Drain, cool, and lay out on a sheet pan lined with towels to make sure they are good and dry.
While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage in a skillet, over medium heat. Move the sausage to a mixing bowl. Return the skillet to the heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic to the pan and saute until veggies are soft. Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Move the veggies to the large mixing bowl.
Place the cooked, drained spinach on a towel, roll it up, and squeeze it well to ensure all liquid has been removed and spinach is dry. Add the spinach to the big mixing bowl.
In a smaller, separate bowl, add the ricotta, eggs, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Mixture should be light and fluffy.
Add the cheese mixture to the rest of the ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. I find my hands work best. Make sure to break up the sausage well so there are not any big clumps.
Cover the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce. Gently fill the shells with the sausage, veggie and cheese mixture, one by one, using a small spoon. Be careful not to tear the pasta.
Cover the pasta with the marinara sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese. Cover the pan with a sheet of foil. Bake 45 minutes at 350′. remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
Thank you for following my blog. Stay tuned for updated photos and a few new recipes in the coming year.
Wishing you all the best in 2020 and beyond.
Have a great evening,