Remember when I thought that the fall SRC post was my last one? Well, I had completely forgotten that I still had one more regular Secret Recipe Club post. Oops! Luckily I did remember in time and was able to look through my assigned blog - Making Miracles.
Rebekah is a mother of two who traveled extensively as a child, including living in Africa - wow! Most of her meals are "quick, easy, and family friendly", but sometimes she has time for something more complicated. She has also been a surrogate for many years resulting in 4 baby girls, 2 of whom are twins! What an amazing gift! I can't imagine how challenging and rewarding that must be.
On Rebekah's blog I saw lots of casseroles, and you KNOW I love casseroles. I was particularly interested in this Crockpot Turkey and Rice Casserole, this Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage Casserole, this Creamy Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole, this Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole with Doritos, and this Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole.
I let my husband look through all of my top choices (so generous of me *wink*). He picked out these classic Stuffed Shells, and I was happy to oblige! But then I ran into a problem - the store didn't have any jumbo pasta shells! I thought I remembered having a box at home, so I bought the rest of the stuff and went back to check. It turns out that what I had was actually large shells, not jumbo. I was out of time and had already bought the other ingredients, so I decided to improvise.
Here's what I did - I made the sauce and filling as directed. For the sauce - I browned a pound of ground beef, drained off the fat, then added pasta sauce and simmered. The filling was cottage cheese, Parmesan, mozzarella, garlic powder, and herbs. I spread half the sauce into a dish, followed by half the filling.
Then I layered all of my cooked shells.
I spread the rest of the filling over the shells, then the rest of the sauce. I topped the casserole with Parmesan and extra mozzarella, and then baked as directed.
So the flavors were true to the original, but the structure changed. Either way you make it, it will be delicious. Super classic and comforting. I might try it with ricotta instead of cottage cheese next time, but this was a big hit.
Stuffed Shell Casserole
adapted from Making Miracles
1 (16 oz) box large pasta shells
1 (26 oz) jar pasta sauce (my favorite)
1 lb ground beef
4 cups large curd whole milk cottage cheese
16 oz shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese, divided
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
Cook shells according to package directions in salted water. Drain.
Meanwhile, brown the ground beef. Drain off the fat. Add the pasta sauce and simmer until needed.
Mix together cottage cheese, 12 oz mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder. Rub the dried herbs in the palms of your hands to pulverize them, and stir into the cheese mixture. (I love this direction, by the way. Good tip for dried herbs.)
Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Spoon 1/2 of the cheese mixture on top in large dollops. Spread as best you can, it is okay to mix the two layers a little.
Place the cooked shells on top of the cheese mixture. Spread the remaining cheese mixture over the top, followed by the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 4 oz mozzarella cheese over the top.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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Five Years Ago - Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Chili