I can’t explain what the box of giant shells was doing in the cupboard. At some point I must have thought that stuffed shells were a good idea but I can’t imagine why. So after looking at them for several months I pulled them down. Great. Except I didn’t have any ricotta cheese. That probably would have deterred a smarter person but I pressed forward convinced that I could make it work.
I think this is a successful pantry meal. The idea is that instead of actually stuffing the shells you prepare all of the components and then toss everything together, top with cheese and bake. Because the shells are so wide the toppings fall inside during assembly and they end up more or less stuffed with very little effort. In place of the ricotta I made a bechamel using 2 tablespoons each of butter and flour and two cups of milk. I seasoned it with nutmeg, a little salt and pepper and dumped in enough grated parm to make it tasty, probably about a cup. That got poured over the cooked shells in a 13×9 pyrex dish. The I added in 4 Italian sausages that I removed from the casings and browned separately. On top of that a little marinara, not too about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup altogether. To top it all off, a little more parm and some fresh mozzarella. A few minutes in the oven to make sure everything is heated through and a minute or two under the broiler to get the cheese all melted and bubbly and dinner is served. Sweet.
I’m really happy with how it turned out considering that all I needed to throw it together were a sad box of pasta, some bits of cheese from the fridge, some marinara that I already had on hand and a bechamel that took 5 minutes to throw together. I’ll eat the leftovers for lunch this week. I hear that making your own ricotta is easy. Maybe I’ll try it one day… today wasn’t that day.
On another note, completely unrelated to dinner, we spent another lovely afternoon at the zoo today. Chase ran the whole way. She usually demands her stroller but today she was brave, a real big girl and I thought because of that for sure she’d crash for hours when we got home. All of that running and she only napped for an hour and a half. She woke up feeling well rested and alert. Meanwhile I was totally beat. Totally. It was worth it though to see the crocodile moving around and eating. Pretty impressive. (Also impressive, I’m a post writing machine this week!)
The short nap left plenty of time for playing at home. I heard the sound of something scraping across the floor and found this. I died. I love how she set the table and pushed the chairs up to it. Hooray for make believe! She is so getting a baby with eyes that close for Christmas.