I feel like a bit of a slacker because I have not participated in one of my favorite blogging challenges in forever- the Improv Cooking Challenge. The challenge gives us two ingredients, or a theme that allows for creativity and variety with the participating bloggers. The theme for this month is: Tomatoes and Cheese.
Stuffed shells are a favorite of mine, but oddly not something I make very often. Traditionally, stuffed shells are made with a ricotta and mozarella mixture, but I wanted to make a meat stuffed shell. I decided that a traditional lightly seasoned meat and cheese filling was not in the cards, and I wanted to make a meatball as my filling. I used a very simple blend of lean beef and Italian sausage. A little seasoning, egg, breadcrumbs, and cheese made the perfect filling for my shells. Topped with a little tomato sauce, and a little cheese, and this family favorite was a welcome addition to our dinner table.
My family are big pasta lovers, and it is a success when I can find a meal that everyone will happily eat. Thankfully, we are all tomato sauce fans over a cream sauce, and that, thankfully, saves for the the disagreement on sauce. However, the kids recently tried Alfredo while we were one vacation in the Dells, but both still decided that tomato sauce reigned supreme in their world. It is always interesting to me to learn preferences on things like that. Sometimes, I like to play a would you rather game with the kids with different foods. It seems to be an easy way to find more about what they want to eat, or preferences because, many times, when I ask the answer is, “I don’t know”.
Tonight, I have another parent meeting at Kellen’s school and I am hoping that Ron and Kellen can get out and do a little fishing. Kellen’s older cousin started enjoying fishing early this summer, and Kellen gradually decided it was something he wanted to try as well after watching his cousin enjoy it. So far it has been a fun hobby that Ron and Kellen can learn together. Ron enjoys ice fishing so it has been a learning experience for him as well, and he is also enjoying spending the extra time with Kellen. I am not a fishing person so it is nice that Kellen can have the time with his Dad, his cousin, or his Aunt.
Another plus of this casserole is that it makes delicious leftovers. The noodles hold up well to re-heating, and the flavors are tasty. I always hate when I dish is delicious the first time around, but the leftovers are just blah.
This weekend the apple orchards are opening in our area, and I am excited. At our old house I was spoiled because we had apple and pear trees in the backyard, and we do not have them at our new house. They are on our list to plant next year, but we did not get to it after we moved in June. This is the first year that I have needed to go pick or buy apples in the fall! I am also in the market for an apple peeler that can be on the counter top because peeling by hand can be a pain in large batches. Any suggestions on peelers, tips, pros & cons? I have not used one before so I am not sure what to be looking for in the device.
Meatball Stuffed Shells
- 1/2 box jumbo shells (about 25-28 shells)
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb mild italian sausage
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- 1 tbsp italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp dried chopped parsley
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta shells according to package instruction. Gently stir the shells as the cook to hep prevent them from sticking together. (TIP: Make a few extra shells in the event some tear or stick). When pasta is slightly uncooked, remove, drain, and lightly rinse.
In a medium bowl, mix together beef, sausage, egg, breadcrumbs, milk, seasonings, and 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese. Roll mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs, you should make 25 meatballs.
Place 1/3 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread sauce into an even layer. Place a meatball securely in each shell. Arrange shells into 5 rows of 5 in the baking dish.
Top shells with remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Top with parsley.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Serve immediately.