Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pork-Stuffed Shells with Red Wine Marinara

Warm, inviting stuffed pasta shells can be elegant without being elaborate. A few, simple ingredients are all you need—remember, you’re stuffing small noodle cups, so less is better.

Here, I made an easy marinara with canned crushed tomatoes and added some depth to the flavor with a bit of dry red wine. The sauce is rich and mellow, and pairs well with some salty Pecorino Romano and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese on top.

Note: I used “ciliegine” (see-lay-jee'-nee) mozzarella balls, which are about the size of cherries. Any other size will work just fine.

Serves 4

  • 16 jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for oiling dish
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (from a 28-oz can)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella balls, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cook the shells in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pork, 1/2 the chopped garlic, and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat, until the shallot and garlic soften, the pork is just cooked through, and most of the liquid is absorbed, 7-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of parsley.
  4. Transfer the pork mixture to a bowl and wipe out the pan. Let the mixture cool 10 minutes. (It will continue to absorb liquid.) Stir in the ricotta until well combined. Set aside while you make the marinara.

Pork Mixture Beginning to Cook

Cooked Pork Mixture

Pork-Ricotta Mixture
  1. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and remaining 1/2 of the chopped garlic. Sauté 2 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, and 2 tablespoons of parsley and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool while you stuff the shells.
  3. Lightly oil an 11 X 7-inch baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with 2-3 tablespoons of the pork mixture and place snugly side by side in the dish. 
  4. Spoon the marinara on top of and around the shells and top evenly with sliced mozzarella. Scatter Pecorino Romano on top and sprinkle with dried oregano. Bake, uncovered, until the mozzarella is melted, 30-35 minutes.
Garlic and Onion

Marinara Beginning to Cook

Stuffed Shells

Ready to Bake

Baked Pasta
To serve, place 3 or 4 stuffed shells in shallow pasta bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve right away.

Pork-Stuffed Shells with Red Wine Marinara

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