Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stuffed Shells Casserole

    Although I love to cook, there are some days when those Kindergarten kids drain the life out of me and I need an easy-peasy meal to make.  I'm all about any recipe that takes a tedious task in the kitchen and simplifies it.  I started making this one last summer when I had off and was able to watch the Rachael Ray show every morning (please come soon June 10th).   She made a similar recipe to this that made me re-think why I was wasting time stuffing every single shell.  She took the basic ingredients of stuffed shells and mixed them up to make a single casserole: brilliant.  
      She makes her own quick sauce (which is great if you have the time), but in this recipe I suggest your favorite jar sauce.  If my Grandma Connie had the internet and could read this, she'd drive to North Carolina and slap my wrist.  Jarred-sauce is a big "no-no" in my family and our "Sauce Sunday" tradition growing up made me kind of a sauce-snob.  If you have a great family sauce recipe like I do, here's what I suggest: make a huge batch and freeze it off in smaller portions, so you have some available to make recipes like this.
      I've tweaked and tried the recipe different ways since then and this is what I've come up with: simple, delicious, and makes GREAT leftovers:

1 pound ground turkey (or beef- your preference)
1 pound of your favorite pasta (I used radiatori because I think they're fun, but you could use small shells)
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1  15oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 TBSP parsley
1 TBSP garlic powder
Salt & Pepper

1.  Start by boiling your water and cooking the pasta so it's ready to go when you are.  Also- set the oven to 350.  This will help you finish the recipe quickly.
2.  Brown the ground turkey in a large skillet.  When the turkey is cooked, add in your jar of sauce.
3.  In a large bowl, mix together the: ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, parsley, garlic powder, salt & pepper.
4. Drain your cooked noodles and add them to the cheese mixture.  Mix to coat all of the pasta.
5. Use a 9x13 casserole dish: Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Add the pasta & cheese mixture on top and spread evenly.  Add the remaining 1/2 of the meat sauce to the top.
6. Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes or until the sauce on the top begins to bubble.

**You can add more shredded cheese on top if you'd like
**A great mix-in for the cheese mixture is chopped spinach if you're looking to add some "hidden" vegetables :)

*Side note: casseroles don't take the prettiest pictures, but I promise it's delish! 

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