What’s this? Lady Bison is writing about a dinner dish she made? What’s going on?!
I know, I know… I’m in shock too.
Ever since JP and I started dating, I haven’t really made too many dinners; before we met I maintained a pretty awful fast-food-and-Ramen-noodles sort of diet, so I have no fantastic secret recipes to contribute to our little cookbook. John’s a professional chef after all, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he can come up with amazing recipes out of thin air (while I, meanwhile, see a fridge full of food and can’t think of anything to make).
All in all, we’ve got a pretty sweet arrangement going on: John loves cooking, so making dinner is actually fun for him. I obviously want to learn more from Chef (and I am, slowly but surely!), but in the meanwhile, if I cook, it’s thanks to Pinterest or a blatant suggestion — which is where this weekend’s dinner came alive. John mentioned in passing a little while ago that he’s been craving stuffed shells, so I thought I’d try my hand at it – and wowza, did they turn out well!
When I got the idea in my head to surprise him, I asked a friend for her recipe (which is super similar to this version online from The Recipe Critic). I made a few adjustments, like substituting the basil with spinach and using a fabulous Italian blend cheese that’s a mix of not four, not five, but SIX cheeses — mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, romano, fontina, and asiago. I also tried this new bacon and provolone Prego sauce to give the dish some of that smoked bacon flavor JP loves.
Speaking of sauce, I used more than the other recipe(s) called for because, well, when I poured it in the pan it just didn’t look right to me and I didn’t want to risk the shells coming out crunchy and dried out; turns out it was a good call!
I’m happy to say it made John’s night to come home to a surprise dinner! And, even better (for me anyway), chef said it was perfect – so excuse me while I do a little happy dance.
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups Italian blend cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ to ½ cup spinach, chopped or julienned
Combine all of your ingredients in one bowl and mix well.
NOTE: I used the dried supermarket parmesan cheese because apparently fresh shredded parm is the first to go in a snowstorm? ha! But seriously, turns out it was a worthy swap because John said it almost acted as a flour-like binder to tighten up the cheese mix, so… win!
For the shells:
24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your jumbo shells just a bit beyond the instructions on the package, then drain and rinse in cold water.
NOTE: John taught me that, because jumbo shells are a thicker pasta, they’re more durable (which makes them a little harder to overcook). It’s not that you can’t do a stuffed shell dish with slightly underdone pasta (because you can!) but that calls for more sauce and results in a sort of caramelized final product, which isn’t what I wanted for this particular dish.
To fill your shells, there’s two ways you can go about it: you can either scoop the cheese mix into the shells with a spoon or, if it’s easier, fill a plastic bag with the cheese mix and pipe it into the shells.
To finish your dish:
1.5 jars of Prego Bacon and Provolone
½ cup Italian blend cheese
Dash of Italian seasoning
Pour one full jar of marinara sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish and spread evenly. Line the dish with your stuffed shells and then top with the remaining sauce, cheese, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes (uncovering in the last 5-10 minutes). Enjoy!