Pasta and cheese are a perfect marriage in the food world. They always go well together, and for this reason, stuffed shells is one of my favorite ways to combine the two of them together. This year, I tried venison for the first time, and I decided that I needed to figure out a way to incorporate it into a pasta dish. The obvious choice for this combo was to use jumbo pasta shells. What I didn’t anticipate was how large of a recipe this would create. Cole and I had pasta for DAYS. If you love pasta and have a large family, this is definitely the recipe for you. It will definitely feed a family, and you will probably still have leftovers.
12 oz Jumbo Pasta Shells
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 lb Ground Venison (Ground Round can be substituted if you do not have easy access to venison)
⅓ cup Diced Green Pepper
1 tsp Minced Garlic
¼ tsp Nutmeg
½ tbsp Brown Sugar
3 oz Spinach
20 oz Skim Ricotta Cheese
20 oz Marinara Sauce (If using my Fructose Friendly recipe, you will need a double batch.)
1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1. Fill a large pot half full of water, and pour in the olive oil. Bring to a rapid boil, and follow the directions on the box to create al dente pasta. Strain the pasta when it is done, and set aside to let it cool.
2. Heat a large skillet on medium high and brown the meat. When it is partially cooked, add in the diced green pepper, minced garlic, nutmeg and brown sugar.
Kitchen Tip 1: If you are substituting ground round in for the venison, it will need to be strained before adding in the spinach. If using venison, there will be a smaller amount of grease which will cook off instead of needing to be strained.
3. Once the meat is fully cooked, add the spinach to the skillet and stir until it wilts.
4. In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, and egg together.
Kitchen Tip 2: It is easiest to combine the cheese and egg together when using a fork, because the egg and cheese will slide through the tines of the utensil as you are stirring.
5. Stir the meat mixture into the cheese mixture until thoroughly combined.
6. Grease a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, then carefully stuff each shell with the filling.
Kitchen Tip 3: Do not worry when you do not have enough filling for all of the shells. I always boil up extra, because some of them are guaranteed to rip during the boiling or stuffing process. It is always a good idea to have some extra, I usually have about 6-7 shells left over by the time I’m done stuffing.
7. Pour a large spoonful of marinara sauce on top of each shell – enough to almost cover the shell, but not so much as to flow over the sides and pour into the bottom of the pan.
8. Lightly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of each shell. Then bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Kitchen Tip 4: If you are using store bought marinara sauce that does not contain parmesan cheese as an ingredient, then mix ¼ cup of parmesan cheese with the shredded mozzarella cheese before sprinkling it on top of the shells.
This dish is absolutely delicious with a unique combination of various flavors. If you love pasta, cheese, and have an excess of venison in your freezer, you are definitely going to want to try this one out!