Monday, May 16, 2011

a meal for giving

When a family is going through extraordinary times, I think its not only really lovely and wonderful when the community comes together and individuals bring a wholesome, home-cooked meal and leaves it at the front door--but I also see it as a personal responsibility.  This was done often in Santa Fe, when we and our friends were seemingly going thru a mini-baby boom.  Such a welcome sight to open the door and find a delicious meal, left with a note of well wishes and love.   More than that, though, lots of time, it was a life-saver...till we got the whole baby thing down, friends and their food got us through... 

Whether its the joy of a new baby or perhaps someone is sick and energy is being focused on getting them better--good food, which may usually be a priority, can be pushed to the back burner--when times aren't as they usually are.  Not only does the act of cooking and bringing good food to our friends and loved ones benefit the recipient but it is good for the whole community...its a simple act that is so basic, when you think about it, but it can make such a difference--and once someone has brought you food, you are more likely to bring someone else food and hopefully on and on and the community gets stronger..

one meal at a time.

Stuffed Shells with Ricotta, Spinach, Artichoke Hearts 
(and possibly sausage)

(a recipe inspired by Giada De Laurentis and the back of the Barilla Large shells box.)

As far as recipes go for making and leaving on the door step, this is a great one because you can put it all together and a) bake it and bring it already cooked. b) bring it as is and let recipient bake when ready. c) let recipient stash in freezer and bake when they are ready to eat...this recipe freezes really well.  ALSO its good because it can be vegetarian or you can make with sausage or ground turkey.  It can not, however, be made gluten free/dairy free...sorry!

One box (12 ounces) Jumbo Shells

EITHER: 1 lb ground turkey meat or sausage

OR: 12-16 ounces baby spinach 

1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts-drained and chopped
1/2 large yellow onion chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

5 cups of Marinara Sauce--you can use from jar or this recipe for home-made is good.
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


    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 spinach or the ground turkey, salt and black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until either the spinach is cooked OR the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts, fennel seeds & nutmeg and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.
    In a large bowl combine the cooled spinach/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 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 marinara 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.)

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