Italian Stuffed Shells

Italian Stuffed Shells – Candy Coated Culinista

A striking Italian meal that is great for a dinner party or a Sunday dinner.

Yield/Serving: 8-10
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 45 min.
Difficulty level is: Medium, time consuming

Ingredients
• 36 Jumbo shells
• 1 lbs ground beef
• 1 tsp canola oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp season salt
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 cup pasta sauce
• 2 cups spinach, stems removed and chopped
• ¾ cups ricotta
• 1 egg
• ½ cup grana padano
• ¼ cup parmesan cheese
• 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Assembly
1. Over high heat boil shells in batches and cook until al dente draining and setting aside. Ensure not to break or cook a few more just to be safe.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat add canola oil and onion and garlic and cook until softened.
3. Add in ground beef and spices and brown.
4. Add in ¾ cups pasta sauce in ground beef mixture and set aside.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
6. Set out two casserole dishes and pour a thin layer of pasta sauce into each casserole dish.
7. In a medium sized bowl add spinach, ricotta, egg, grana Padano, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese and combine.
8. Start assembling the shells by adding ground beef first followed by ricotta mixture and place in casserole dishes.
9. Shred a little more grana padano and mozzarella cheese overtop and drizzle more pasta sauce overtop.
10. Bake for 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil and then serve.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
This recipe was very time consuming more so than a lasagna; but if you make a few batches like I did it is well worth the while. I made two meat filled shells casserole dishes and one vegetarian casserole option and these tasted great all be it a touch messy to eat. The shells were the perfect amount of meat, cheese and veg and very eye catching. I would definitely make this again; just not in the next few months. Also this is not a weekday meal, unless you start as soon as you get home from work as this took me almost 2 hours from beginning to end.

Italian Stuffed Shells (Pre-Oven) – Candy Coated Culinista

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Baked Ricotta with Thyme and Lemon

Baked Ricotta with Thyme and Lemon - Candy Coated Culinista

Baked Ricotta with Thyme and Lemon – Candy Coated Culinista

Yield/Serving: 8
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 30 min.
Difficulty level is:
Easy

Ingredients
• 500g fresh soft Ricotta cheese, water squeezed from it
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 tbsp fresh thyme minced
• Zest from 1 lemon
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano
• ½ jalapeño, finely diced
• Handful of cilantro, finely diced
• Green onion, sprig of
• Sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste

Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Mix all of the ingredients into a large bowl and well combined.
3. Spoon into a fancy baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and slightly golden.
4. Let cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

Tips
• Make sure you squeeze the water from the ricotta cheese.
• Serve with black and green olives, polish sausage, fancy crackers and bread.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
This would be a great appetizer to serve at a party or a fancier snack. I didn’t take into account the water content of the ricotta and once we started eating it I could see some water at the bottom of the dish.

A is for … Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart - Candy Coated Culinista

Asparagus Tart – Candy Coated Culinista

Alphabet Soup: A is for … Asparagus Tart

A new food series to kick the first day of spring. I will be creating recipes with ingredients beginning with a letter of the alphabet and trying to make interesting and unique dishes I haven’t made before.

Yield/Serving: 8
Prep Time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 25 min.
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
• 1 sheet puff pastry (usually half of the package / box) – thaw at room temp and then keep in fridge in not using immediately after thawing
• 1 egg, beaten
• ½ cup ricotta cheese
• ½ lemon, juiced
• 20 asparagus, with ends cut off
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 6 slices soppressata, sliced into small pieces
• Salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste

Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Place thawed but cold puff pastry into a rectangular tart pan.
3. Using a medium size bowl, beat the egg yolk.
4. Fold the edges in towards the centre corners of the tart pan.
5. Brush the inside with a little egg wash and press to seal the edges.
6. Place tart pan in the refrigerator to keep the puff pastry chilled.
7. In a medium saucepan, steam the asparagus until just tender, about 3 minutes.
8. Transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking process and to also cool.
9. In a small frying pan, fry the soppressata until it’s crisped up a little.
10. Using a food processor place 4 chopped asparagus in and add the remaining egg and ricotta and combine.
11. Remove the tart pan from the fridge and spread some of the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry.
12. Arrange the asparagus in the pan and sprinkle with more ricotta mixture and soppressata.
13. Bake for 25 minutes.
14. Serve warm or at room temperature. Do not reheat.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
Even after the baking the asparagus was still crunchy and the saltiness of the soppressata came through lovely. Mr. C. Suggested reheating it even though I thought that would be a bad idea and I was right reheating this tart will result in a soggier tart. Not really appetizing to me.

Uncooked - Asparagus Tart - Candy Coated Culinista

Uncooked – Asparagus Tart – Candy Coated Culinista

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricotta Gnocchi - Candy Coated Culinista

Ricotta Gnocchi – Candy Coated Culinista

I buy ricotta from time to time for very specific recipes, but then I have so much leftover ricotta I just don’t know what to make with it, as I find ricotta to just be a boring cheese. I always say I will use it in another recipe, but then it always gets tossed out. This time I had a goal to use up all my ingredient loose ends and I did.

Yield/Serving: 2
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 2 to 3 min.
Difficulty level is: Easy

Ingredients
Gnocchi
• 1 ½ cup fresh soft Ricotta cheese, water squeezed from it
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 tbsp fresh thyme minced
• Zest from 1 lemon
• ½ jalapeño, finely diced
• Handful of cilantro, finely diced
• Green onion, sprig of
• Sea salt, to taste
• Black pepper, to taste
• 1 egg
Butter Basting
• 2 tbsp butter
Tomato Sauce
• 1 canned tomatoes, crushed
• Handful of parsley, garnish

Assembly
Gnocchi
1. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together by hand until well incorporated and dough comes together.
2. Sprinkle a clean pastry board with flour and roll dough into 6 even pieces.
3. Gently roll each piece into a long slender rope, about ¾” wide, and cut with a knife.
4. Generously flour a baking sheet and place the gnocchi on and shake until coated.
5. Freeze if desired. (See tips below).
6. Boil a large saucepan of salted water and cook gnocchi until it begins to float, 2 to 3 minutes.
7. In a large frying pan melt butter and pour gnocchi over top and brown.
Tomato Sauce
8. In a medium frying pan pour the crushed tomatoes in and let reduce.
9. Once tomato sauce has reduced, gently stir in gnocchi and top with fresh parsley and serve.

Tips
• Be careful to not overwork the dough.
• Gnocchi can be frozen. After step four is completed place the tray into the freezer for two hours and then transfer to a zip lock bag and continue to follow the instructions at a later time when ready to consume.

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
I have never been a fan of gnocchi and I love potatoes; but I just seem to find it to be very bland. The ricotta gnocchi however was flavourful and light and came together so easily I was quite impressed. I even froze some for later.

Homemade Lasagna

Homemade Lasgna - Candy Coated Culinista

Homemade Lasgna – Candy Coated Culinista

Italian or Greek food is the food I could have every day for the remainder of my life and I’d be quite content. Lasagna is my absolute favourite food and I have tasted it many places. I finally decided to make lasagna from scratch even though I know this is a time-consuming burden. This may be my first and last time making this dish as I may just not want to have to go through this process again.

Yield/Serving: 1 – 9” x 9” dish & 12” x 9” dish
Prep Time: 1hr & 30 min.
Cook Time: 45 min.
Difficulty level is: Medium, time consuming

Ingredients
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
• 1/3 pound ground beef
• 1/3 pound ground pork
• 1/3 pound ground veal
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp season salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
• 1 tbsp dried basil
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 1 tbsp dried rosemary
• 1 tbsp dried thyme
• 1 tbsp dried sage
• 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
• 5.5 oz (156 ml) tomato paste
• 1 {28 oz} can Whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
• 3 cups ricotta
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
• 4 cups {16 oz} mozzarella cheese, grated
• 3 cups spinach, blanched
• 3 cups swiss chard, blanched
• 16 Flat “No Boil” Lasagna Noodles

Assembly
Sauce
1. In a large saucepan sauté onion in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened.
2. Add in the garlic along with the ground, beef, pork, veal along with all the spices and stir until meat is browned.
3. Add in the tomato paste and crushed San Marzano tomatoes including the tomato sauce from the can. Stir and combine.
4. Reduce to low and let simmer for 45 minutes.
5. In a medium bowl combine ricotta, eggs, parsley and a half cup of parmesan and mozzarella cheese and place in fridge until needed.
6. In another saucepan sauté the spinach and swiss chard for a few minutes and then squeeze out excess water.
Lasagna Assembly
7. Spray a 9”x13” and a 9” x 9” baking or casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 375°F.
8. Spread one cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.
9. Lay four noodles, then add some spinach and Swiss chard and spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.
10. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce and sprinkle with a half cup of mozzarella cheese.
11. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have reached the top.
12. Bake for 30-45 minutes and then let rest for 10 minutes.
13. Serve

Please Enjoy

My thoughts
If I had an Italian nonna she would be so proud. My first attempt was a huge success. I used my homemade pasta sauce and everything. I just think I needed more pasta sauce even though I had added a lot, I think it needed more. Also a deeper casserole dish would be great my lasagna. I made one dish of lasagna to freeze as I wasn’t going to make just one and gave it to my dad to enjoy. I really had a sense of accomplishment making my most favourite dish ever.

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