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If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m in an online book club. Well it started out as a book club but these days it’s just a forum to discuss what’s going on in our lives in addition to the books we’re reading. What we’re reading right now is anything by Kristen Ashley. We began with the Rock Chick series. I know what you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with stuffed shells?!”. I’m getting there. Stay with me. There’s a lot of food in this series. There’s Jet’s caramel layer squares, Indy’s peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate sheet cake and many more. In the last book of the series our Hot Bunch guy is Lorenzo Zano, or Ren for short. He’s Italian. Very Italian. He may not be Cosa Nostra, but he is a really good cook. Enter, Ren’s three cheese stuffed shells.

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Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

  • 1½ lb whole milk ricotta
  • 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella (or mozzarella pearls), cut into ½” cubes
  • 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, slightly scrambled
  • ½ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • ¼ cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 12-16 oz jumbo pasta shells

Preheat oven to 425˚. Crush tomatoes in juice by hand. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour the tomatoes into the skillet. Add the crushed red pepper, and season lightly with salt. Bring the sauce to a quick boil, then adjust the heat to keep it simmering. Cook until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, make the filling. Mix ricotta with fresh mozzarella, 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg and parsley. Stir in the milk or half-and-half if mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until slightly firmer than al dente, usually about 7 minutes. Fish the shells out of the water with a large skimmer, and carefully lower them into a bowl of cold water. Let cool, then drain carefully.

Line the bottom of a 10-by-15-inch baking dish with about 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture into each shell—the shell should be filled to capacity, but not overstuffed. Place the shells next to one another in the baking dish as you fill them. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, coating each one. Cover with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Place baking dish in preheated oven and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted and tops are browned slightly. Remove from oven and let cool at least 5 minutes prior to serving. Top with extra chopped parsley or basil.

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Now those are some stuffed shells that might even make Ren jealous! ROCK ON!

Notes:

  • I highly recommend reading the Rock Chicks books (or anything else by Kristen Ashley). However, they are not for everyone. They are definitely for a MATURE AUDIENCE. If they were movies, they would be rated R. Or maybe even NC-17.
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