I first saw this recipe prepared by Giada DeLaurentiis on her Food Network show, Everyday Italian. It consists of three components. First, is the jumbo shell pasta which is only parboiled so that it remains firm enough to stuff later. It will cook completely in the oven.
The second component is the sauce, which is made from just a few ingredients. It starts with pancetta, which is a smoked Italian bacon. You can use regular bacon if you like. Pancetta is available in most grocery stores now. I usually don't like these vacuum sealed packs, but for this recipe, I didn't really want to go for the expensive deli stuff either. It can be difficult to chop because of the way it's sliced thin.
I've found the easiest way to chop it is to roll it up like a jellyroll, and then slice it.
It's easy enough to separate once you get it frying up in the pan.
I used my last (tears) jar of spaghetti sauce from the previous summer's garden tomatoes.
The recipe required five cups, however, and since a quart is only four cups, I supplemented with a store-bought jar of marinara sauce. To the pancetta and the sauce, I added some garlic and some crushed red pepper.
(It's two teaspoons of crushed red pepper, so it has a bit of a kick!)
My sauce wasn't as thick as I wanted it, and so I let it simmer just to thicken it a little.
While the sauce simmered and then cooled, I made the last component--the filling.
(Do you get how many big pots I'm using so far?) The filling is made from onion, garlic, ground turkey, and frozen quartered artichoke hearts. To that, you add a carton of ricotta cheese, two eggs, some basil and some parsley. Once that's cooked up and cooled, you're ready to stuff the shells.
First, you spread a cup of your sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Stuffing the shells is easy enough. You just hold one in the palm of your hand. They want to curl up on themselves, but you can hold them open with your thumb and index finger, then slide a soup spoonful of filling in sort of sideways.
Just keep doing that until you've used all the filling and shells, or until your baking dish is full. I found that I had about half again as much filling and half again as many shells as I needed, and so I made an additional 8 x 8 baking dish of them and I used the sauce left from the partially used jar of marinara that I opened earlier. (That will give us a marinara-style version of the dish to eat at some point in the future. For now, it's in the freezer.)
Once you have your shells all stuffed,
cover them with the remaining sauce,
and then cover the whole dish with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Mmmmmmm. Looks good, doesn't it?
That goes into a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until it's brown and bubbly.
The mess in the kitchen is pretty impressive, but this will feed us for at least three days (not even counting the dish that's in the freezer). It's a good dish to prepare for guests because you can make it up a day ahead . . . or even earlier than that if you want to freeze it. Add a side salad and some garlic bread and you have food for days.