Monday, July 18, 2011

Erica's Stuffed Shells

In our lives, we experience so many "firsts."

We have our first words, first steps, first loves, first kisses, and so on.

Yesterday I had a second something.

I had my second baby shower.

However, this was my first BOY baby shower.

It still shocks me that I'm having a boy. We were beyond convinced that we would have 2 girls. But alas...

Yesterday, as I'm opening all these blue blankets and boy centered presents, I couldn't help but think about Little Butt.

My baby girl is only 4 but she has experienced so much already. But yet, she has so much still to live through.

The night that my friend Erica came over and brought these stuffed shells with her, oh so many years ago, was the same night that Little Butt took her first steps.

The Hubble was off training (as he does sometimes) and was due back home the next day. So Erica and I decided to have a girl food night before he came home.

We were eating these shells and watching Top Chef (a new to me show that I was introducing Erica to) when Little Butt did it! She was 11 months old and teetered from the couch to the chair where I was sitting, all by herself!

As Erica and I clapped and laughed, and yes, cried, I couldn't help but think how The Hubble had missed it.

With this new baby, The Hubble will miss his entire first year. But it's the life. It's what we do. It's what we signed up for.

I don't ever want you all to think that I'm complaining. Honestly, this is all I know having grown up an Army Brat.

But again, this is my life and this is what I have to talk about. These are my experiences. This is life. And that is all.

Though The Hubble will miss many firsts in our children's lives, I hope that he will be here for so many others.

Maybe he will be here for Little Butt's first crush, first heartbreak, first baby??

Maybe he will be here for Baby N's first day of school, first soccer game, first sleep over.

But...maybe not.

My job is to make sure I document these firsts and try to make him as involved as possible.

Memories are often centered around smells and sounds. To me, they center around foods.

Whenever I make these shells I get to relive Little Butt's first steps and the love that we have for our family and friends who have been able to experience our lives with us.

I'm sure you have similar stories, and I would love to hear about them!

As I share this recipe with you today, please think about the meals that have been essential to some of your best memories. And feel free to share them with me!

Until then...let's get cooking some memory making stuffed shells!

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together your ricotta and parmesan cheeses, basil, salt, pepper and spinach. Please pay no attention to the red pepper flakes in the picture. I goofed. But it wasn't bad. ;-)

Then, get your lovely assistant to take your partially cooked shells and stuff them with the mixture. Place them back in your baking dish.

Now for the sauce! In a large saucepan, heat some oil then throw in the garlic.

Toss in your marinara and FOR REAL, the red pepper flakes. Mix it all together and cook until heated through.

Pour the sauce over the stuffed shells and top with the mozzarella.

Toss in the oven and bake until the mixture is heated through and the top is a golden brown.

Allow to cool, serve and enjoy!!!

Erica's Stuffed Shells

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  • 1 box (12 ounce) Jumbo shells
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 (15 ounce) containers ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or 3 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Partially cook the shells in a large pot of boiling salted water (about 6 minutes, shells will cook more in oven).
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove shells to a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.
  4. In a medium medium mixing bowl, mix together ricotta, parmesan, basil, salt, pepper and spinach until well incorporated. 
  5. Fill shells with cheese mixture (about 2 teaspoons per shell), arrange shells back in the baking dish.
  6. To make the sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat until glistening. Saute garlic about 30 seconds. Add in marinara and red pepper flakes. Stir and heat until warm throughout.
  7. Pour marinara over prepared shells.
  8. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over shells and sauce in the baking dish.
  9. Bake in the lower 1/3 of the oven until filling is heated through and top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  10. Let cool, serve and enjoy!!!
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