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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Journey to Italy with stuffed pasta dishes

A couple of weeks ago, I shared two stuffed vegetable dishes. Today, I want to take you on a journey to Italy with a couple of stuffed pasta dishes. Since I’m Italian, I often cook dishes with Italian roots. In New Orleans, it called Creole Italian cooking. I just call it great tasting food.

Our two dishes today feature cooked pasta stuffed with different fillings. The first one, Shrimp manicotti features seafood. The second one, Stuffed Shells, has no meat in it at all. But who’s to say you couldn’t swap the stuffings in these two dishes. Gather up your ingredients, and Let’s head to the kitchen.

Shrimp Manicotti

Manicotti are pasta tubes that are made to be stuffed. Shrimp is a great protein to pair with pasta. This great combination is a tasty upgrade from the traditional cheese stuffed manicotti often found in restaurants.

2 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salted water to boil noodles

1/2 cup canola oil

1 box manicotti noddles

1 pound Mozzarella cheese, cubed

1 pound Colby cheese, cubed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Panko Italian breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons garlic, minced and lightly sautéed

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 eggs

Creole Seasoning to taste

16 ounces of your favorite pasta sauce (It can be white or red)

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Heat water and oil to a boil in a large pot. Drop noodles into boiling water one at a time. Boil until done, drain, and rinse well. Mix together the remaining ingredients, except the pasta sauce, and carefully stuff into the noodles. Place the noodles in a single layer in a glass baking dish and cover with pasta sauce. Cover and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Stuffed Shells

Pasta shells lend themselves to stuffing better than other forms of stuffed pasta. Manicotti, for instance, has openings on either end to stuff the pasta. The shell makes stuffing easy. Here is a traditional cheese stuffed shell recipe.

24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to the package directions

15 ounces ricotta cheese

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Creole seasoning to taste

1 egg

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

3 cups marinara sauce, divided

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375℉. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Place the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, Creole seasoning, egg and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Stir to combine. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and place in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells, then sprinkle the other 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese over the top. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan, then bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve.

I am often asked if I am writing another cookbook. Right now, I am working on rereleasing my first one, You Can’t Keep New Orleans Out Of The Cook. I do, however, have an idea for my third one. It would be a Creole Italian cookbook. I’m sure you would see dishes like these featured in it. I just have to get my editor on board. Not my publisher, but the wonderful lady who has read and edited everything I have put in print, my wife, Peggy. All of my writing I couldn’t do without her.

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