Friday, March 23, 2012

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

A friend of mine from high school who is quite the foodie mentioned on Facebook the other day that she was preparing turkey and artichoke stuffed shells for a special family dinner, and I thought that sounded delicious. She told me it was a Giada recipe, and I had to try it. I must say, it was a LOT of work; also, it was a rather pricey dish to make. Thus, it’s probably best for a weekend meal or special event. But it was YUMMY! Here are my recipe notes:

1. I used Barilla shells, cooked for 9 min as the box directed--2 boxes to be safe (as recommended by recipe reviewers) but only needed one. I got 36 stuffed shells, 24 in a 9x13 pan, and an 8x8 with 12, frozen for another time.
2. I used the whole onion and doubled the garlic. And I used extra cheese in the filling and on top, because that's how I roll!
3. I used turkey sausage and added some dried herbs: 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and rosemary, and a teaspoon of oregano.
4. I used a 15 oz. can of artichokes, drained and chopped finely.
5. I also increased the sauce. I cheated and used 2 24 oz. jars of Classico Spicy Red Pepper plus a pint of homemade sauce, yielding 7 cups. Since these sauces were already spicy, I pulled back the red pepper to a scant teaspoon.
6. The store I was at did not carry pancetta, so I used a 1/2 pound of low-sodium bacon instead. It added a little smokiness, not unlike fire-roasted tomatoes.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
Source: Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: 6 to 8

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

P.S. I shared the extra half pan of shells with my wonderful friends, the Padulas. (They do freeze beautifully, by the bye.) And Janice said after finishing dinner, "I feel like I ate at a fancy Italian restaurant!"


The Cookbook Junkie said...

Oh, I've made these using ground chicken. I'm craving them again now.

Randi said...

How come it was expensive?

Dating Tips said...

where is that place?

filipino girl said...

I was researching for good Italian restaurants. And found your blog. Looks very good!!!

Collin said...

That Italian Restaurant is really awesome. I so like it! The foods really looks delicious. Looking forward to visit the place. Thanks for sharing and keep posting.