Miss A has an affinity for all things Italian, like last week’s chicken “parm.” When I was little, my mom used to make these stuffed shells. My sister and I remember them fondly* and I thought Miss A would like them as well. We were right. She loved the stuffed shells. They’re easy enough for a weeknight dinner and perfect for a Friday during Lent.
Toddler approved: Stuffed shells
- 1 Mozzarella block shredded
- 1 Colby block shredded
- 1 small container cottage cheese /Ricotta cheese large or small curd doesn't matter, I prefer the cottage cheese but to each their own!
- 2 eggs
- 1 Box Jumbo shells
- 1 jar Your favorite marinara sauce you might need a jar and a half, we usually use Bertolli Marinara and Burgundy wine or Lucky’s Market Roasted Garlic
- Parmesan cheese*
Get the water boiling and follow the directions on the box.
Our box said boil for 9 minutes if baking.
Shred the blocks of cheese. Mix together the cottage cheese and two eggs, then add the shredded cheese and mix.
You can add seasoning like salt and pepper or this delicious Penzy's frozen pizza
blend we received as a gift. When we made this for Miss A the first time, we left out the spices and just sprinkled them on before we ate.
Pour about 1/3 cup of the pasta sauce on the bottom of your favorite baking dish.
Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.
Using a soup spoon (or your favorite spoon) stuff the shells and line the baking dish.
Pour remaining sauce (you might need another half a jar to get all of the pasta covered). Bake at 350 degrees for at least a half an hour or until all the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
For at least the last 10 years, I’ve been making this dish wrong. I *remembered (incorrectly it seems) my mom using cheddar cheese and I couldn’t figure out why it never tasted exactly right. When shopping for the ingredients for this dish with my sister, she said she remembered our mom using colby cheese. Upon my first taste with J and Miss A I remarked that my sister had been right and the missing ingredient was colby cheese! That’s when we Facetimed my mom from the dinner table with the intention of showing her how excited Miss A was to eat one of her recipes. That’s when my mom asked about the ingredients. Turns out she sprinkled Parmesan cheese* on top! I feel like the kid in Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (one of Miss A’s current favorites) when Alexander exclaims, “I HATE Limas” after having to eat lima beans for dinner because I very much dislike Parmesan cheese and absolutely do not remember that being part of this recipe. Isn’t it funny how something as simple as a childhood dish can be interpreted so differently?
Our garden seems to choose every year what it will do well and what it won’t. One year, it was zucchini. Another year, basil. This year seems to be tomatoes. So with the overabundance of tomatoes and a few small basil leaves, we wanted to make something that would be quick and easy and not super hot, since of course it’s late August in Missouri.
Luckily, J found this super simple recipe on the Food Network. We’ve talked about how we love lots of Emeril Lagasse’s dishes before (here, here and here) and he did not disappoint this time either.
Penne with garden Fresh Tomatoes and Basil plus Mozzarella
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1 pound penne pasta we used whole wheat
- 1/2 cup shredded basil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 pound fresh salted mozzarella sliced or cubed (I don't know if we used the whole 3/4 of a pound. We did just get a fresh mozzarella log from our favorite grocer)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (J added this to his I left it out)
- Balsamic vinegar to taste
Put a large pot of salted water on for the pasta. Meanwhile, prepare your sauce.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil.
Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute or less.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to release some of their juice.
Cook the pasta in the pot of salted boiling water for 12 to 13 minutes until al dente (you're best bet is to follow the package directions).
Drain the pasta. Add the pasta and basil to the pan with the tomatoes and toss.
Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve the pasta in bowls, equally distribute the fresh mozzarella between the bowls. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bowls of pasta and serve immediately.
We reserved some mozzarella to top the pasta and then drizzled it with Balsamic vinegar.
So very tasty and perfect for a hot summer evening. Next time we might add additional veggies like onions or zucchini.
We had some leftover mozzarella from making pizza and decided to make these as an amuse bouche, since we didn’t have any bread for the original. I could have eaten only these for dinner!
Best summer garden snack or amuse bouche
- in Good mozzarella cheese we find out favorite kindthe deli cheese case at our local grocer
- Basil we used fresh from the garden
- olive oil we used extra virgin
- balsamic vinegar for drizzling
We have found the best flavor comes from the broiler. Line your favorite baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice or wedge your tomatoes.
Drizzle with olive oil. If you want to add garlic, you can do that now.
Slice the mozzarella. If the cheese is slightly bigger or smaller than the tomatoes, that's ok! It will melt.
Add to the pan oven under the broiler. If using the broiler on high, don't walk away, the dish will burn faster than you might think it will!
When the cheese starts to slightly brown and bubble remove it the oven.
Drizzle with the balsamic and top with a basil leaf.
Allow to cool a bit before eating.
So delicious. The next time it’s too hot for a whole meal and we have left over mozzarella, I’ll make this as a stand alone dish. I didn’t even miss the bread (which is how this is traditionally made)!
We finally perfected our homemade pizza recipe! J has recreated his favorite Imos pizza. While the pizza Margherita I so loved from Florence is completely out of reach, this version is close enough I don’t mind. Buon appetito!
pizza dough (store brand thick or thin is up to you)
whole milk mozzarella, shredded (put it in the freezer for a few minutes before shredding, it helps.)
Roma tomato, sliced (or cherry sliced up if you’re in a pinch like we were)
fresh basil, Chiffonade
Preheat oven according to package directions. For us, this was 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a pizza stone. Place in oven for four to six minutes or until the dough starts to brown. remove from oven. Brush with olive oil. About a quarter cup should be plenty. Sprinkle evenly with the minced garlic. Put the sliced tomatoes on top of the olive oil. Then sprinkle with the mozzarella, covering the entire pizza evenly. Add the Chiffonade basil. Bake for the remaining time on the package. Keep an eye on it. When you think it’s done, give it two to three more minutes. This will ensure the dough is all the way cooked through.
pizza dough (store brand thin)
pizza sauce of your choice (we prefer Mid’s Pizza Sauce)
shredded provel cheese
small can of mushrooms, drained
Preheat oven according to package directions. For us, this was 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a pizza stone. Place in oven for four to six minutes or until the dough starts to brown. While waiting, microwave the pepperoni. Blot with paper towels (this keeps it from making your pizza too greasy.) Remove from oven. Brush with pizza sauce. About a quarter to half cup should be plenty. Sprinkle evenly with the provel and mozzarella. Put the pepperoni and the mushrooms on top. Bake for the remaining time on the package. Keep an eye on it. When you think it’s done, give it two to three more minutes. This will ensure the dough is all the way cooked through.
This has totally replaced delivery in our house. In fact, it takes less time than waiting for one to arrive at our door!