Italian food is simple. There’s no denying it–good ingredients combined simply to provide simple comfort. It’s why it’s one of my favorite cuisines.
When you can make simple food even simpler without sacrificing taste, like cutting out a few steps and a few dirty dishes, it’s even better. True, there is a time and a place for a sauce that simmers all day on the stove, or a beautiful layered lasagne with homemade béchamel, ragu, and fresh sheets of pasta. I would say, however, that the time for that is not 7:30pm on a Wednesday.
I’ve never made stuffed shells before, however it combines all of the things I like: pasta and cheese. I bought a box of jumbo shells ages ago with the intention of making kale stuffed shells but every time I got around to it, the idea of all of those steps, however simple, always threw me. I would opt for something simpler.
Then I remembered one of my favorite dishes, skillet lasagna. If I could cut some corners with lasagna, a dish notorious for steps, why couldn’t I do it with stuffed shells?
Answer: I can do it with stuffed shells.
I made a simple but tasty skillet meat sauce with ground turkey and crushed tomatoes and onions, boiled the jumbo shells, drained them then added them to the sauce. I settled them in–giving them a little love so that they are deeply entrenched in all of that sauce, then I threw a couple of dollops of ricotta and a couple of slices of fresh mozzarella on top and bam: stuffed shells.
Here’s the thing: the shells are so jumbo, that if you just kind of toss them around in the meat sauce, then bake it in the oven so that the cheese gets melty and bubbly, the result is a sort of alchemy that creates stuffed shells without actually stuffing them.
I guess what I’m saying is, there’s no shame in taking a few shortcuts. It’s almost September, school’s about to start, and you want a delicious dinner without spending over an hour in the kitchen. I know. I get you.
Cheesy, saucy, wonderfully baked goodness, in one skillet, in 30 minutes. Get on board.
Here’s the recipe.
Skillet Stuffed Jumbo Shells
- 1 pound jumbo shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta
- 4-5 slices of fresh mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and cook pasta according to package directions, about 8-9 minutes. Drain, make sure all of the shells are separated, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add olive oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, then add turkey. Brown the turkey until cooked through.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Add cooked shells to the sauce and toss gently, so that the sauce covers and clings to all of the shells. Try to keep the shells separated as much as possible.
- Add dollops of ricotta on top and arrange the slices of fresh mozzarella over the shells. Sprinkle fresh grated Parmesan on top.
- Transfer entire skillet to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes, then serve.