Paired with an Amber Ale
There are just some types of food out there that I crave on a regular basis. This past weekend, for example, I was seriously craving roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans. I feel like this has to a lot with the way we were raised and what we grew up eating. My mom and dad are both fabulous cooks. My sister and I grew up eating the classics. From red sauce with country ribs to chicken and dumplings to roast beef and mashed potatoes, you name it, my parents probably made it for us. This was the 80s and 90s, and if you too were also an 80s and 90s kid, you know that paleo diets didn’t exist and carbs were all the rage. So anyway, on Sunday, I made roast beef and mashed potatoes and each bite was like taking a bite of the past. I love it when certain recipes do that to us.
One dish that has made a serious impression in my life as an adult is the red sausage sauce I’m sharing with you today in this skillet stuffed shells recipe. A couple of years ago I was going pantry diving looking for ANY ingredient to make a quick dinner with. I’m kind of a pantry hoarder. Seriously if you were to go into my basement, you would find literally 50 cans of tomato paste. I go a little crazy when the stuff is on sale. I always have chicken broth on hand and loose sweet Italian sausage is a freezer staple for us. I whipped together a quick red sauce using the sausage and I never looked back.
I make this sauce probably once a week, and usually it’s just served over ziti or something similar. Once in a while, though, when I feel like taking 15 minutes more to make dinner, I make stuffed shells. Stuffed shells are one of those dishes that I’m sure many of you guys grew up on. I know that I had them quite a bit growing up in central NJ. If you are Italian-American living in NJ, you know all about stuffed shells and baked ziti. Anyway, they are seriously fabulous in this sauce, and have become one of our recent obsessions.
This recipe is my ultimate comfort food, and I hope you guys find some deep connection to it as well. ;) Pair it with an amber ale. An amber will really cut through the acidity. Enjoy!
- 12-14 jumbo shells
- 1 pound loose sweet Italian sausage
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped finely
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- pinch of chili powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- salt and black pepper
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the shells for 8-9 minutes or until almost al dente, but still have a little bite. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- While the shells are boiling, prepare your sauce. In a large nonstick skillet, add the sausage. Cook over medium heat until brown and almost cooked through. Add the onion, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the tomato paste and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until it takes on a deep red color. Stir in the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. This will range from 1-2 cups depending on your preference. Bring to a simmer and add the Italian seasoning, chili powder, granulated sugar, and salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-6 minutes more. Adjust seasoning to taste and keep over low heat until you are ready to serve.
- In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, oregano, egg white, and a dash of salt and black pepper. Spoon the cheese mixture into the shells and place the shells directly in the pan with the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese on top and cover. Cook until the cheese has melted and then remove from heat.
- Serve immediately garnished with fresh parsley and additional parmesan if desired. Enjoy!
Tomato past is EXTREMELY acidic. It's literally concentrated tomatoes. To cut through that acidity, add sugar or something similar like honey. A teaspoon may not be enough, so taste it as you go along and add more as needed.