Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stuffed Shells and Focaccia Bread

1 box (12 ounces) Jumbo Shells
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bag (6 ounces) baby spinach, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
12 ounces cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
1-2 jars Marinara Sauce

PREHEAT oven to 350 F.
COOK Shells according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water.COOK ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain grease.
ADD oil, spinach, onion, garlic, reserved pasta water; continue cooking 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
ADD seasonings and blend well. Let mixture cool.
COMBINE egg and cheeses and add to cooled meat mixture.
POUR 1 cup of the Marinara Sauce into a 13x9 inch baking dish.
FILL Shells with meat mixture; place in dish. Pour remaining sauce over shells; cover with foil.
BAKE for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated

This is a favorite with all of us in our house, and the mixture is easy to prepare even up to 24 hours before you intend to assemble and bake it. Depending on how much sauce you like you may want to have 2 jars on hand, or one extra large jar.....we like sauce! Served with focaccia bread and a salad, this is a yummy meal that makes great leftovers.  Below is the focaccia bread recipe I always use, and this is easy and great to make with kids.  Leo loves to make the "fingerprints".  We usually make without the sun-dried tomatoes and it's just as good.

Foccacia Bread

1 cup water
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
3 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temp
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Place water, flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, butter or margarine, tomatoes, and yeast into a large kitchen mixer.  Using the dough hook mix the dough until a soft ball clings to the hook.  If the dough is too sticky, add a small amount of flour, too dry add a small amount of water.  I heat my oven to 170 degrees while mixing, or use the lowest heat setting you have on your oven.  Once the dough is done mixing, remove from mixer bowl and spray with oil.  Replace the dough ball and turn to coat with oil.  Cover bowl with a damp, light cloth and place in the warmed oven, turning off the heat.  Let rise for about 1 hour.

After about one hour the dough should be doubled in size.  Take the dough out. Knead for 1 minute by hand. Let rest.

Dust a 10 x 15 inch baking tray with cornmeal. Roll out dough to fit the pan. Make indentations in the dough with your finger tips. Brush top surface with oil, and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with parmesan, rosemary, garlic salt, and mozzarella.

Bake at 400 degree F (205 degrees C) for 15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cool slightly, and cut into squares for serving.

• To make a thicker bread, use a smaller pan or a large casserole dish for baking it.  This thicker bread is great for sandwiches.  

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