Meatless Stuffed Shells

Oh Giada de Laurentiis. You and your intensely-Italian pronunciations and extremely low-cut shirts. I have to say I get suckered in to her show on the Food Network whenever I’m flipping through the channels. I love to hear how she peppers in the words ricotta (REEEECOTAH) or mascarpone (MAHHHHHSCAPONAY) into her perfectly American conversations. It makes me wish I had Italian heritage. Oh well- I guess I’ll just live vicariously by watching Cake Boss and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And of course, Giada.

These stuffed shells are Giada’s recipe, just tweaked a bit so that they’re vegetarian and so I could use our homemade pizza sauce instead of the marinara that it originally calls for. I also added onions to add a little more substance to the sauce. The end result was a tasty and surprisingly easy dish to whip up.  Grazie, Giada!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Meatless Stuffed Shells

Meatless Stuffed Shells

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1 box) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 36 shells)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing baking sheet
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups pizza sauce (I used homemade, but you can certainly use store bought)
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 30 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1.5 tsp dried)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1.5 tsp dried)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Lightly oil a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside. Lightly oil the baking sheet and set aside.

Partially cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly tender but still quite firm to the bite, about 5 to 6 minutes. You will continue cooking the shells in the oven after they have been stuffed. Using a slotted spoon, drain pasta shells and place on oiled baking sheet, spreading them out so that they don’t stick together and allow to cool.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and stir. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the pizza sauce, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spoon 1 1/4 cups of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 2 tablespoons per shell. Arrange the shells in the prepared dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the mozzarella.

Bake in the lower third of your oven until the filling is heated through and the top is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Grapefruit Brulee

Hello citrus! One of the bright spots of winter is the delicious grapefruit. I love starting my day off with this tart and tangy fruit. I usually sprinkle a little sugar on top and dig in; but when I saw the idea for grapefruit brulee in this month’s Bon Appetit magazine, I couldn’t wait to try it. Any opportunity to play with fire is just a splendid thing in my book.

All you need is a grapefruit, sugar, and a kitchen torch. Halve the grapefruit, sprinkle a little sugar on top, then melt the sugar with a kitchen torch to form a golden and crispy surface. VOILA- you have grapefruit brulee! It’s a great way to jazz up a cold winter morning.


Happy New Year! Champagne Cupcakes with Chambord Champagne Buttercream

Happy 2012, everyone! To celebrate the new year, I popped open a bottle of Champagne (technically it was sparkling wine since it wasn’t from Champagne, France- but who’s keeping track?!) and made these cupcakes with a Chambord champagne buttercream icing. I first heard of champagne cupcakes last year when I saw them on The Curvy Carrot. There were so pretty. I knew these beauties were something I wanted to try to recreate, so I filed the recipe into my folder of cupcakes to try.

Fast forward 12 short months and I thought a New Year’s Eve party would be the perfect opportunity. The cake portion was light and fluffy with just a slight hint of champagne while the icing was delicate with a delicious note of my new favorite liqueur, Chambord. I also loved how the Chambord added a light pink tint to the buttercream that gave it a very feminine look. To add extra pizazz and sparkle to the cupcakes, I garnished them with spun sugar. This was my first attempt at making this glass-like decoration and I turns out to be both a fun and frustrating process (but mostly fun). There are so many fun possibilities for decorating with spun sugar and I am looking forward to trying this method again soon. I included pictures of how it’s done below.

In the end, I really loved how these cupcakes turned out. They’re perfect for a New Year’s celebration, but they would also be a really nice addition to a menu for a bridal shower or a girl’s baby shower.

Happy new year, everyone! May 2012 be the best year yet!

Champagne Cupcakes with Chambord Champagne Buttercream

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 3/4 cups plus 5 tablespoons cake flour (or 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup Champagne (I used a dry champagne)
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature

For the Frosting:

  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Chambord

For the Spun Sugar:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into butter mixture alternately with champagne.  In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

For the frosting:

Whip the butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add in the Chambord and Champagne and mix until combined. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

For the spun sugar:

Secure two wooden spoons so that the handles are sticking out over a counter or over the counter top (as I did with my stackable cooling racks). Line the floor or countertop with parchment paper or newspaper to avoid making a mess.

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Bring the sugar, corn syrup, and water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring occasionally. When the mixture begins to boil, attach a candy thermometer and stop stirring the mixture. Allow the syrup to reach 300 degrees, or hard crack stage. Immediately remove from the heat and place the pot in the ice water, keeping the thermometer in the pan. BE CAREFUL- the mixture will bubble/steam! Allow the mixture to cool to 250 degrees. Remove from the ice bath.

Dip a fork or spoon in the mixture and, holding it about one foot above, carefully drizzle the mixture back and forth over the two spoon handles.

Allow to cool. Break into pieces and decorate as desired.