Today's the first day of my birthday month. That's not usually a big deal but I turn 40 this year.
Not really. I’m kinda ready to be 40. I’m going to own my forties.
My twenties were about being young and free and stupid and liberated and fun and easy and quirky and adventurous and independent and ballsy. I can honestly say, I left no stone unturned. It was awesome. But ballsy adventures can’t last forever and toward the end of your twenties you start yearning for something more. Something with roots.
My thirties were about starting my life with my husband and babies. Those years were glorious and scary and beautiful and hard and spiritual and challenging and rewarding and teary and deep and inspiring and I had to dig for so much more than I thought I had and I almost ran dry but I didn’t and I learned what love is. My thirties were hardest. And my thirties rewarded me with the most.
Turning forty brings with it the realization that youth is not, in fact, eternal. So while my body still works like it’s supposed to, I am going to celebrate it. And I’m going to embrace the people around me because they are the people I choose.
Forty means I choose my tribe.
I am so blessed. I AM SO BLESSED. I am married to the love of my life. To a man who makes me laugh. I love him SO HARD and he loves me back even more. And our children are happily, healthily tumbling down their roads of life. They are kind little people with beautiful minds, gentle hearts and whole bodies and I am so grateful. SO GRATEFUL.
And what, you must be thinking, does any of this have to do with stuffed shells?!?!
But it’s my blog and I do what I want! (you can say stuff like that in your forties!)
This is a great recipe for feeding a crowd because you can double or triple it without any special effort. You can easily fill 3-4 of those big disposable aluminum pans with these and ring the dinner bell.
If you’d like to change things up a bit, feel free to use alfredo sauce instead of marinara!
Classic Stuffed Shells
10 ounces jumbo shells (approximately 20-25 shells)
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed if applicable
1 pound ground beef
1 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained*
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 24-oz jar marinara sauce, divided
1 8-oz can tomato sauce (garlic and/or Italian herb flavored preferred)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
Cook shells in liberally salted water per manufacturer’s instructions for al dente preparation (you don’t want them to be too soft as they will continue cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, crumble sausage and ground beef in a large skillet and cook until nicely browned. Drain fat then add meat to a large mixing bowl. Add drained spinach, parmesan cheese, garlic, pepper, salt and 3/4 cup marinara sauce then mix well to combine.
Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish (13x9 to 15x10). Stuff shells with sausage mixture and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. If you have any sausage mixture left over, just spoon it on top of or in between the shells. Pour remaining marinara sauce over shells. Top with cheese then bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Rest dish, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes approximately 5-6 servings.
*When I say drained I really mean it. I usually have to wring it out with my hands to get all the water out of it.
- No, you can't make this in a crock pot.
- You don't have to use the spinach if you're deathly allergic to it or hate it.
- Yes, you can use your own homemade sauce.
- You can use mild or sweet sausage instead of hot.
- If you use fresh spinach, you'll need to saute it first to cook out some of the water.
- Please, please, please shred your own mozzarella.
- Fresh parm is best but the green can can be used in a pinch.
- If using shredded parmesan instead of grated, use a whole cup.
This recipe was featured at the Weekend Potluck!