Before I lived in Pennsylvania, I thought stuffed shells were what you found at the beach.
My husband was kind enough to introduce me to all things Italian when I arrived in the keystone state, and this recipe has become a fast favorite. Not only is it easy and delicious, but I tweaked it so that you can make two dinners at once. Having a ready-made real meal in the freezer is a saving grace on busy weeknights and those evenings when you’ve spent all day traveling and the last thing you want to do upon getting home is order more takeout. Or, when you’re just being lazy. (It happens.)
Another time-saver: I periodically whip up my own French bread, which is easy and ten times cheaper and tastier than any store-bought variety. The recipe makes two ginormous loaves, so I will slice one loaf, put it in a Ziploc bag, and store in the freezer until needed. The night before I plan to eat it, I pull it out, and it’s thawed by dinnertime. You can eat it at room temperature or toast it — good as new. My go-to recipe is this one from Balancing Beauty & Bedlam.
1 pkg. jumbo pasta shells
1 large jar pasta sauce (I use the 45 oz. Ragu from Sam’s Club)
2 eggs, beaten
30 oz. ricotta cheese
4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. parsley
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. pepper
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two baking dishes (one, 13×9″ & one, 8″ square) with cooking spray; set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Run cool water over noodles; lay flat on paper towels to dry, and pat away excess water.
In large bowl, combine beaten eggs, ricotta, 3 c. mozzarella, shredded Parmesan, and spices. Mix well and spoon into a large freezer bag. Remove excess air from bag and close; using kitchen scissors, snip off one corner of the bottom of the bag.
In each baking dish, pour just enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom (about 1 cup), turning pans to distribute the sauce evenly. Using the cheese-filled Ziploc bag like a piping bag, fill each pasta shell with cheese mixture, then place in even rows in each pan.
Pour remaining sauce evenly over pasta in both pans. Sprinkle evenly with grated Parmesan. Sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella. Cover the 13×9″ dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. To save the smaller pan for another night, cover it tightly with two layers of aluminum foil, then insert into a large Ziploc freezer bag.
Patting yourself on the back next month when you are able to whip up a home-cooked meal with no prep needed is optional.
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