Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Going Local: Basic Stuffed Shells from Scratch

When cooking dinner for two children - both of which are five years old - its hard NOT to err on the side of being bland. I almost want to take the road most travelled. To go with the grain. To not be the nail that sticks up. To shoot for the lowest common denominator. After all, I want the kids to eat what I'm making. Not just because its healthy, but because there ain't no fish sticks in the freezer for back up.

So for me, that means oregano is out! Basil, buh-bye! See ya later, cilantro!

However, I will say that they are becoming less and less discerning as time goes on and its true to keep putting new things in front of them. Last night they ate black bean burgers - one without a struggle at all and the other with a bit of coercing (in the form of a lot of ketchup).

In the spirit of making a kid-friendly dish, today's dish is very basic and can be tweaked, modified, riffed upon as you see fit. You can play with the pasta shapes, the spices, the cheese, add meat or leave it bare bones as this one is.

For basic stuffed shells you need tomato sauce (I made mine from tomatoes that I canned last summer), tvorog which is a locally made cottage cheese, an egg, pasta shells and mozzarella, which I forgot to include in the photo below.

I picked up these tubes somewhere at some point at some grocery store. They were curious because they weren't in real packaging. So either they are locally made or were repackaged. Either way I thought they were screaming out to be stuffed.

This is tvorog, a locally made cottage cheese. Here I mixed about 15 ounces with one egg and some salt. You could doctor this up any which way you see fit. You could add finely chopped mushrooms, parsley, mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes. Just take a look in your fridge and pantry.

Next spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.

Now the fun part. Stuff the tvorog/cottage cheese/ricotta filling into a ziploc bag and snip one corner.

You've just made yourself a piping bag with which to fill each of the pasta tubes.

As you fill them, arrange them any which way you want in your sauced dish.

Then cover generously with more sauce. Because the noodles aren't cooked, they'll absorb a good amount of the liquid. If you precook your noodles, then you don't need as much sauce. Unless of course you like your baked shells saucy. To each her own!

Generously cover with grated mozzarella.

Now you can either cover this with saran wrap and then foil and freeze it for an easy mid-week meal or you can pop it in the oven as you are on your way out the door for a date with your husband and let the babysitter serve it to the kids. I chose the latter!

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