after my lasagna making last week, i was still in the mood for something similar today, but not quite identical. so mushroom stuffed shells it was. amazingly easy and i didn't even miss the meat.
- stuffing the shells with a tablespoon of the mushrooms, pinch of mozzarella, pinch of parm, and putting in the pan. when the pan was full of shells, i drizzled the bechamel into the shell opening of each.
- the bechamel was the perfect amount. perfect smooth, creamy, cheeziness.
- surprisingly, i didn't have enough mushrooms to fill all ~20 shells. next time i'll go with a full two pounds. or reduce the shells by half or a third.
i love love love bechamel. what? you think it's weird to use it here? no way, it melts with the mozzarella and the parmesan and makes this creamy cheesy goodness. no reason for dry ricotta at all.
oh, you're intimidated by bechamel. super easy. the main thing to remember: always whisk. don't stop whisking. it doesn't have to be crazy fast, but keep the whisk moving. so the milk doesn't scorch or boil over. no one wants flecks of burnt milk in their sauce. and you can scale up or down the recipe as you need (the original scale i use is 2T butter, 4t flour, 1.5 cups milk).
(shortcut) mushroom stuffed shells
1.5 jars of whatever pasta sauce you like (i used tomato basil)
12oz box jumbo shells pasta
1 small onion, minced
24 ounces mushrooms, whatever kind you like, cut at least in quarters to fit in the shells
couple cloves of minced garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it, i used 4)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2T + 2t flour
2 1/2 cups milk (2% worked fine for me, use whole if you like, but skip skim)
salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg
time start to finish: ~ 2hours, 6 hearty servings
- cook the shells according to the package directions. i turned on the water for the shells when i put the mushrooms in the pan. the shells were done about the same time as the mushrooms.
- saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for a couple minutes until they start to soften.
- add the mushrooms. keep the heat medium-low. it'll take a good 20 minutes for the mushrooms to cook.
- when the mushrooms are to the consistency you like, add ~1/2 jar of pasta sauce. (i kept the mushroom sauce mixture on low on the stove while i made the bechamel and the shells boiled).
- make the bechamel. melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. add the flour and whisk about 3 minutes until the flour cooks (turns light brown. if you skip this step, the bechamel will taste like flour - no good!). whisk in the milk. make sure you continuously whisk, or the milk will scorch on the bottom of the pan. turn up the heat to medium-high. simmer for about three minutes, until it thickens, and whisk the whole time. once thickened, remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and a pinch (or two) of nutmeg.
- preheat your oven to 350F.
- drain the shells and rinse with cold water so you don't burn your hands.
- add a thin layer of pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. i used a glass pyrex dish.
- pop open a shell and hold it in your palm. add a tablespoon of mushroom filling and generous pinches of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. place seam side up in the pan.
- fill the rest of the shells. try not to squeeze the shells too close together.
- once full, drizzle the bechamel sauce over the seams of each shell, adding about a teaspoon to each.
- drizzle the remaining pasta sauce over the shells.
- cover with foil & bake for 30 minutes. uncover and bake another 15minutes. scoop and let sit on your plate for at least 5 minutes or risk your mouth full of hot cheesy lava.