Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Shell" We?

My in-laws will be in town tomorrow and they are scheduled to arrive around dinner time after a very long drive. I will be at work a full day so I won't have the luxury of cooking all day to prepare a welcome dinner for them. With that being said, I really didn't want them to have to get ready to go out to dinner after sitting in a car for several hours. I had to figure out a way to cook dinner without having any time to actually cook dinner.

Recently I saw a Giada (Everyday Italian) episode where she made a bunch of recipes that freeze well. It is an episode that comes on often and she cooks with her sister who is pregnant and named Louie. My sister is pregnant, one of my best friends is named Lou and I needed a recipe that could go straight from the freezer to the oven. It was the cooking show sent from up above - I felt as if it was written to solve my problems. Yeah, yeah, I know - that is a little egocentric, but I can think whatever I want to think, right?

So I made this dish one night this week. I froze the contents and will leave strict instructions for my husband to place it in the oven when he gets home from work (way earlier than I do by the way). We will have a nice hot home-cooked meal on the table for his well traveled parents and I won't have to leave work at noon to make it all happen.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
Adapted from from
Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 (8 ounce) can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows

  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook,

stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine.

Remove from heat and place in a large glass mixing bowl and let cool.

While allowing the turkey mixture to cool, begin Arrabbiata Sauce.

Arrabbiata Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

After you are finished making the Arrabbiata sauce:

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper.

Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons.

Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. ( I also had enough mixture and shells to fill a glass loaf pan with 6 stuffed shells - the perfect dinner for 2!)

Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells,

top with the grated mozzarella and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

The best part about this recipe is there was instant gratification built in to the serving size. The entire time I was making it I couldn't imagine covering it all up and freezing it without getting to taste the fruit of my labor. But as luck would have it, the recipes yields more than a 9x13 inch pan of this goodness. I was able to bake six shells in a glass loaf pan for dinner the night I made the recipe. I am so happy there were extra shells - it was delicious. I really recommend this recipe for anyone looking for a "freezable" meal.


Gabriela (Gabi With An Eye) said...

My god these look labor intensive. I've no doubt however, they will taste, shall we say, molto bene? Enjoy your in-laws this weekend. I know you're going to spoil them like the good DIL that you are.

MaryBeth said...

I love making stuffed shells, they are really easier to make then they look. Yours are fabulous looking.

Spryte said...

Yum!! I've never made stuffed shells and those look great!!

Natalie said...

Oh I'm so happy you made this!!!

I missed the episode that she did this one on- but I saw it online and have had it bookmarked for about 2 months- been wanting to try it.

How was the turkey? Did you really really like it??? I'm kind of wary of using ground turkey in any type of red-sauce dish- I guess I just prefer the fatty-ness of ground beef- the artichokes would make anything good though...

Elizabeth said...


The ground turkey really was very good and I am not typically a turkey lover. I think the key to adding so much flavor to this dish is definitely the artichoke and the spicy red sauce. It really does all work together very well - I promise, you won't be disappointed. I initially felt the same way about the turkey and considered using beef, but I didn't feel like that would go so great with artichokes. I am very glad I stuck to the original suggested meat in the recipe.

Anonymous said...

It's been a few days since your last post. I am anxious to see what you have been cooking lately.

Natalie said...

- Sorry it took me so so long- but I finally made these.

You were right! These were delicious! I didn't even notice that it was turkey- and neither did the BF.

Also- the spicy marinara was INSANELY GOOD. These are definitely going in the rotation-Can't believe I waited so long to try these- thanks again for posting it.

Also- I cut the measurements back a bit for the turkey and the cheese, and added it all up- turns out one of these shells is only about 90 calories w/sauce! Awesome! Gonna go eat, like 15 of them now! KTHXBY!