Spicy Stuffed Shells

Spicy Stuffed Shells


So you meet this guy and you kiss a little. You talk a little. You eat, read and laugh a little. And somewhere between peeling oranges and walking dogs, you realize he made it onto your speed dial – and stayed there.

Because there’s something about the way he brings you coffee while you’re working and the way his head tilts when he’s shy. There’s something about the small tufts of hair that grow dark on the tops of his shoulders and the beard that comes in thick and red. 

It’s the blankets tucked around your feet and the sunrises he wakes you up to watch. It’s the fountain Diet Pepsis, cartons of salted caramel ice cream and warm sweatshirts fresh from the dryer.

It’s the moment you’re contemplating what to do about the wet spot on your butt from the puddle you sat in and how the sky over his shoulder looks like paint thrown against a wall. It’s a question:

Will you watch the rest of your sunrises with me?

It’s an answer, shown in a left hand that grows a little heavier and a smile that spreads wider. 

That was January 5, 2015. Life since has felt like a whirlwind. Easy recipes that are packed with flavor and affordable, like this, have been a lifesaver. (A huge thank you to my mom who reads more magazines than me, carefully cuts out any recipes that look good and is always thoughtfully sharing them.)

Spicy Stuffed Shells
Adapted from Women’s Day
Serves 4 – 6

This can be spicy, especially if you use a marinara with a kick. (I’m partial to Trader Joes’ Arrabiata Sauce.) To help mellow out the heat, you might want to serve this with a dollop (or two) of sour cream.

20 jumbo pasta shells
1¾ cups marinara sauce
2 TBS chipotle in adobo, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
2 TBS fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400.

Cook shells according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.

In a large baking dish, combine marinara and finely chopped adobo.

Line a medium bowl with two paper towels and set aside. In a large skillet, sauté ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces until browned and cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked beef to the paper towel lined bowl.

Pour beef fat from skillet, reserving two TBS.

Wipe skillet clean. Re-heat reserved beef fat. Add onion and sauté until very tender (10 – 12 minutes). Add garlic and sauté until fragrant (1 – 2 minutes). 

Add tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon and cooked ground beef to skillet. Allow flavors to meld over low heat for 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in cilantro and ¾ cup cheese.

Spoon mixture into shells (about ¼ cup each) and place shells on top of sauce. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese. Cover with foil and bake until heated through (12 – 15 minutes).

Remove foil and broil until cheese browns (2 – 3 minutes). Squeeze fresh lime juice over the shells. Serve warm.

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