Easy Stuffed Ricotta and Cottage Cheese Shells - Lasagna
My recipe for creating large pans of ricotta and cottage cheese stuffed shells, with browned hamburger and tomato sauce topping.
Stuffed Shells, -This is Going to be Good!
These are Ricotta, cottage cheese, and hamburger-stuffed shells. This recipe makes two large baking pans, so there will be enough for supper the next night, or a second pan to freeze for a later date.
* One box JUMBO pasta shells. 340g. is more than enough for two average baking pans.
* One 796ml jar spaghetti sauce (fancy or plain)
* One bag shredded “pizza topping” cheese (suggestion: “Fiesta” or “Mexican”, white & yellow cheeses)
* Parmesan shaker cheese (as commonly used on spaghetti)
* 1½ – 2 lbs. Ricotta and 1lbs. regular cottage cheese
* Dehydrated Minced Onion (in the spice section of your supermarket)
* 1 or 1½ lbs. medium or lean ground beef hamburger
* (Suggested) Several sliced raw mushrooms or 1 small can mushrooms, stems & pieces
* (Optional) Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1. In a skillet, brown and fully-cook hamburger. Add a tablespoon or so of dehydrated minced onion, other spices to taste (chili powder, salt, etc), drain if excessively greasy. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, boil enough JUMBO shells to line the bottom of two baking pans (aluminum pan, bake ware, -etc.) with extra shells to allow for softening, breakage, and over packing of baking pan. You will want to get as many stuffed shells in the baking pan as possible. When the shells are soft and pliable, rinse, drain and allow time for cooling. They must be cool to the touch in order to be handled, and well drained to limit the amount of water that ultimately would end up in the finished result. The baking pans (glass, aluminum baking pan, etc) should be several inches deep.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 lbs. Ricotta and 1/2lbs. dry-curd cheese. You can additionally add 1lbs. of cottage cheese for a creamier mixture. Add two or more tablespoons of dehydrated onions. -Don’t be afraid to add a lot of dried onion to this cheese mix, a couple of rounded tablespoons is a good minimum starting point, and adjust for taste. This is essential to the texture and taste of the finished result as well. Next, add a large handful of Fiesta or Mexican-style shredded cheeses. Alternately, one could grate their own from a block your favorite cheese (Colby, marbled, etc). Any type of firm aged “brick” cheese will work. You want a colorful blend of cheeses and this too will help bind the mixture when cooked. Add a few tablespoons of the cooked hamburger to this if desired. This is for variety, color and texture in the cheese stuffing but not absolutely essential. Fold loosely until coarsely blended.
4. With the baking pan ready, stuff each shell with the cheese mix using a teaspoon, and arrange shell in the pan. Fill the pan fully, gently placing as many stuffed shells as closely as possible until all shells are used, or all cheese mix is used up. Baking pan should be snugly packed with filled shells. Any leftover cheese mix can be spooned directly on top of shells and smoothed-out with a spoon.
5. Sprinkle the pre-cooked hamburger over stuffed shells, and place sliced raw or canned mushrooms on top of the hamburger. Pour spaghetti sauce over hamburger/mushroom layer until evenly covered. Next, sprinkle more shredded Fiesta/Mexican cheeses on top, Parmesan “shaker” cheese, and Bread Crumbs if desired. This can now be stored in the refrigerator until ready to re-heat (essentially everything is “cooked”, although it is “cold”). Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for twenty or thirty minutes until cheese on top is melted and lightly toasted. Serve hot.
6. There is plenty of room for variations of ingredients and spices in this recipe. It is important to add several tablespoons of dehydrated minced onions to the cheese mix. It might take some practice use up all prepared ingredients. Typically, there might be a shortage of at least one item, or a surplus of another. Drain as much water from the cooked pasta shells as possible or the finished results might have excessive liquid in it. When draining the cooked shells, roll the shells around in the strainer to get all the water out, as each can hold a tablespoon or more of water. The finished baked result should be semi-firm and can be carved with a serving spoon or knife without too much excess liquid present. Typically, three or four stuffed shells per person are a good-sized meal.