Friday, September 7, 2012

Stuffed Pasta with Meat Sauce

Mmm, I love baked pasta - it's the perfect comfort food.  I haven't made stuffed shells or tubes in quite a while because it's more fussy than lasagna or even simpler baked penne.  But, it's also a lot of fun if you have a little more time on your hands (and a partner to help you fill the pasta).  Tim spotted some fantastic-looking pasta tubes at an Italian market and we couldn't resist!  The filling is homemade ricotta (though feel free to sub in store-bought) mixed with grated cheese and some zucchini to make the dish a tiny bit healthier.  Once the shells are stuffed, they're slathered in a quick homemade pasta sauce full of tomatoes and Italian sausage, plus red wine (a great excuse to open up a bottle).  Yum!

Stuffed Pasta with Meat Sauce (adapted from food & style, 101 Cookbooks, and the Pioneer Woman)
Serves 4

For the filling:
6 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp salt
4-1/2 T lemon juice
1 small zucchini, grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces grated Italian cheese blend
1 egg
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
Oil for the pan
1 smallish onion, minced
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup red wine
1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 24 ounce can whole tomatoes

To finish:
8 ounces pasta tubes or shells
Oil for the pan
4 ounces grated Italian cheese blend

1. Start on the filling.  Place the milk in a large pot and add the salt.  Turn on the heat to medium high and heat the milk, stirring often, until it reaches 180 degrees.  Add the lemon juice, stir to combine, and then let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.  Strain through a cheesecloth draped over a large strainer.  Let drain while preparing the sauce.  This will create homemade ricotta cheese.
2. Start on the sauce.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, stirring often.  Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until browned.  Add the red wine, bring to a simmer, and simmer until reduced by about half.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes to the sauce.  Drain the whole tomatoes and then crush them with your hands into the skillet.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer while preparing the rest of the dish.
4. Cook the pasta for half of the recommended time on the package.  They should be pliable enough to bend but not cooked through.  Drain, and then spread out on a sheet pan to cool slightly.
5. While the pasta cools, make the filling.  Combine the drained ricotta cheese (discard the whey or reserve for another use) with the remaining filling ingredients (zucchini, cheese, egg, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste).
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8-1/2 by 11 baking pan with oil.
7. Stuff the pasta with a small spoon and arrange in an even layer in the baking dish.  Pour the hot sauce over top, and then sprinkle the remaining Italian cheese over top.
8. Bake 25 minutes, until bubbling and cooked through.


  1. I love eating baked pasta, but I never make it. I'll have to change that with this recipe.

  2. I love lasagne and the weather is finally cooling off enough to start thinking about making it. The zucchini in this sounds like a great addition- delicious! :)