3 Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells

cheese shells

There is something about stuffed pasta shells that sounds fancy and hard. There is something about making them that is easy and fun.  It’s economical and great made ahead.  My first love is taking something to friends that maybe they don’t make themselves.  It’s hard, as most of my friends are excellent cooks.  I have made this several times over the past few weeks and everyone gives it two thumbs up.  Add a salad and a loaf of French bread and call it dinner!

1 package of jumbo pasta shells
1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
1/4  t. pepper
1 (26 oz) jar of your favorite pasta sauce  (I have used traditional, four cheese, Newman’s Marinara, etc.)
10 basil leaves (optional)
8 oz of sliced mushrooms (optional)
spinach (optional)
sausage, browned and crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta shells according to the package, about 9 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, egg, salt, pepper, and basil (optional).  Spread 3/4 of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the 13×9″ inch baking dish.  If you like meat/mushrooms/spinach in your spaghetti sauce, you may brown your sausage and add the sauce into the meat.

Place 1-2 Tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the cooked pasta shells and place into the baking dish, seam side up.  Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and a smidge of Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Uncover the last 5-10 minutes.

This is a great meal that can be made the night before.   It is also perfect for a potluck, dinner for a neighbor, and also easy to make to accommodate picky eaters by instructing them to “dip shallow” and only get the shells (without the veggies and meat).

Creamy Sausage Pasta

Coffee conversation with a good friend always turns to food.  What’s for dinner?  Anything in your crock pot?  Tried any new recipes lately? Thanks Amy for sharing this winner.  The fact that this is a one pan dish is a bonus.  


1 T. olive oil

1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 cups of chicken broth (I use low sodium)

1 (10 oz can) of Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilies, mild

1/2 c. heavy cream

8 oz penne pasta

1/2 t. salt and pepper

1 c.  Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add sausage and onions and cook about 4 minutes, until browned. Add garlic and cook for one minute. 

Add broth, Ro-Tel, cream, pasta, salt and pepper, and stir.  Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat  and simmer until pasta is cooked, about 15 minutes.  

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of cheese. Top with remaining cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted, spotted brown, and bubbly.  

Back to School Baked Ziti

Friends that take a cookbook to bed and read it like it is a good novel  warm my heart.  On a hot summer day, my friend and neighbor and I, Adrienne,  found ourselves chatting the afternoon away about good recipes.  Another year of back to school and the obvious question, what will we make for dinner?   She shared with me a couple of her faves, and now they are my faves.  Enjoy!

Baked Ziti

8 oz. ziti pasta, cooked and drained
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 onions, diced
1/2 T. minced garlic
3 c. spaghetti sauce
2 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 egg. lightly beaten
1/4 c. chopped parsley (or 1 T dry parsley)
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 T. Italian seasoning
1/2 c to 1 c mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray pan with Pam.  You may use one 9×13 or two 9×9 pans.
Saute onion in olive oil until clear, add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add meat and Italian seasoning.  Cook until meat is brown.  Add sauce.  Cook 2/3 minutes and set aside.
Combine in a large bowl-cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, and garlic powder. Add to ziti.
Spread enough meat sauce to make a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.  Spread ziti mixture next, then meat sauce.  Cover with foil .  Bake 35 to 40 minutes until bubbly.  Remove foil and add mozarella cheese and cook until cheese is melted.
Note:  The healthier version is very good.  Use whole wheat ziti pasta, ground turkey, fat free cottage cheese, reduced fat parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.  I used only one onion and it was tasty.



Book Club Pasta

Looking for a recipe that serves a large group and looks pretty?  I love this one with all my heart.  It comes from Kendra’s friend Irene (an amazing cook), but I think I might hold the record for making it.  I  love it, and so does my Pokeno group and  my tennis friends .   The mixture of asparagus, basil, and walnuts make this a bite of heaven.   Debone the roasted chicken the night before for a time saver.  This recipe makes a ton and is great leftover.


One whole roasted chicken (purchased)
Two cartons mushrooms
1-2 bunches asparagus, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
2 cups walnuts (lightly toast)
1 bunch basil
2 boxes pasta (save 1-2 cups pasta water)  Ziti is my fave.
2 cartons mascarpone cheese  (can be found by the cottage cheese in a similar container)


Pull meat off the chicken, and set aside. Saute the mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes, then add asparagus and saute for 5 more minutes (or you can steam the asparagus instead), and set aside. Toast walnuts for 15 minutes at 350, and set aside. Chop up the basil, and set aside. 
Note:  I half this recipe and half  all the ingredients…except I use the whole chicken.
Pour everything onto a big platter and garnish with reserved fresh basil and walnuts.

Cook 2 boxes pasta and drain, saving 1-2 cups pasta water. Put the pasta back in the pot, and add all the prepared ingredients above with salt and pepper if needed, saving some basil and walnuts for garnish. Then add marscapone cheese and enough pasta water to make a good consistency.

Sonoma Pasta

My dear friend Margit served this at our friends, the Fosters’ in Sun River. I knew I was addicted when I woke up in the middle of the night dreaming about it. When I want to throw caution to the wind diet-wise, I make this dish.

Sonoma Pasta

3 oz. halved sun-dried tomatoes
8 slices thick-cut smoked bacon
16 oz. fettuccini
2 T. fresh garlic, minced
12 medium basil leaves, slivered
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
8 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Drop the sun-dried tomatoes into boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cut into long slivers. Set aside.

Cut bacon into ¼ inch pieces and brown well in heavy skillet. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain; reserve bacon drippings in the skillet.

Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, sauté garlic in bacon drippings for 2 minutes. Add basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes, and toss well. Add olives and bacon, and sauté until well heated.

Immediately before draining the pasta, break the cheese into pieces, and toss it with the garlic mixture and pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately.