From Our Beef Share: Stuffed & Baked Pasta Shells

Last month, we received a share of a beef share.

Our Fargo friends invited us into a greater beef share in which their friend had coordinated the distribution of an entire, grassfed cow from Thousand Hills Cattle Company, located in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The meat cost much less than it would have been to purchase the same cuts from a store. Especially considering that single-pound packages of Thousand Hills beef typically sell for eight dollars a pound in Fargo-Moorhead stores.

The half share included ground beef and a few other cuts including stew meat, blade roast, and roundsteak. Just the right amount to fit into our small freezer a leave enough room for ice cream and a frozen pizza or two.

I got home early from school one afternoon and whipped up an easy version of pasta shells stuffed with our Thousand Hills beef, and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. I served the pasta with a side of mushrooms and cabbage sauteed in a little butter and olive oil until caramelized and de-glazed with sherry.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
One pound of ground beef created enough stuffing to fill a 9 X 13 baking dish of pasta shells. This equalled about half a box of pasta shells.

Add whatever vegetables are in your pantry to the meat stuffing. If I had ricotta or marscapone cheese, I would have mixed a couple spoonfuls into the meat stuffing. I often purchase cheap jars of tomato-basil sauce and boost them with fresh ingredients like sauteed onion, garlic, and red wine. The Bertolli brand is particularly decent. 

Ingredients:
Large pasta shells (I used about half a box)
1 lb of ground beef
A few large button mushrooms
1 small onion, finely diced
Salt
Black pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 handfuls of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed until dry (can substitute fresh spinach)
Soy sauce
Drizzle of honey
Grated Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Herbs, fresh or dried

Sauce:
1 jar of tomato sauce (I use whatever is on sale)
1/2 onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced
Splash of red wine

Instructions:
To prepare the pasta, cook in salted, boiling water until pliable. They should be a slightly firmer than al dente. Rinse in cool water and set aside.

Brown the ground beef. Remove excess fat. When the beef is partially cooked, add the diced vegetables and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. You could also cook the meat and vegetables separately. Place in a bowl.

Add spinach, and cheeses. Season the meat stuffing with soy sauce, more black pepper, and your choice of herbs. I sprinkled in dried basil, marjoram and thyme. Add a little honey to round out the flavor.

Add enough sauce to the baking dish to cover the bottom.

Using a spoon, stuff the pasta shells with meat filling. Place in the baking dish.

Top shells with the remaining tomato sauce.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place a little mozzarella on each pasta shell.

Cover and bake until heated through and the cheese is melted. Covering will help steam the pasta shells. Uncover and bake or broil until the cheese is as bubbly as you wish.

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