The boyfriend’s best friend’s wife’s family owns an olive oil business in Italy. Once a year the lovely couple crosses the Atlantic Ocean to visit her side of the family. This year, I humbly asked for just olive oil. They returned with a pound of cheese studded with crushed red pepper, olive oil (with the lot number handwritten on the container), and black olive pesto. They gave the gifts to the boyfriend, who casually said thank you, and delivered the package to me. His thank you was mild compared to my crazy delight. He would later call his friend about my excitement. To him it was just cheese, olive oil and a jar from Italy, but he was still genuinely thankful, regardless of the gift idea. He finally understood the value of these gifted ingredients when presented with a dish of Ground Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells Baked in a Creamy Cheese Sauce. Grazie e mangiare bene!
Ground Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells Baked in a Creamy Cheese Sauce
1 small onion; finely diced
1 garlic; minced
Nutmeg; a dash
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
1/2 lb. white ground turkey
1/2 lb. dark ground turkey
1 cup fresh herbs; minced (basil, oregano, mint, Italian parsley, rosemary and/or lemon balm)
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. black olive pesto
2 tomatoes; blanched with skin removed; diced
1/4 cup red wine
1 bunch of fresh spinach; cleaned with stems removed; roughly chopped
1 lb. package of large pasta shells; cooked al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions
1. In a large skillet; heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
2. Place onions in the skillet and saute until translucent. Add nutmeg, paprika, crushed red pepper, salt, fresh black pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds.
3. Add both turkey meats. Adjust seasoning. Cook until meat is done.
4. Add fresh herbs, tomato paste, black olive pesto, diced tomatoes, and red wine. Let mixture simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. When the meat filling is done, turn off the heat and quickly stir in spinach. Remove from the heat, and place meat and spinach mixture aside to let cool slightly.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile, cook the pasta shells until al dente. Rinse with cold water and drain. Very gently toss with with olive oil. Place aside.
6. Using the recipe below, make the white sauce.
7. In a lightly oiled baking dish. Pour half the white sauce into the dish.
8. Spoon meat and spinach mixture in each shell. Place shells 1 to 2 inches apart in the baking dish. Pour the rest of the sauce over the shells. Top with grated cheese.
9. Place dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with roughly chopped Italian parsley.
White Cheese Sauce
Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis at the CookingChanneltv.com
1 tbsp. butter
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cup fresh, organic cream
2-1/4 cups grated medium-aged cheese with crushed red pepper (The orginal recipe uses asiago cheese, add 1 tsp. crushed red pepper to the sauce)
1/4 cup fresh parsley; finely chopped
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
2. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved.
3. Set aside. Whisk again right before pouring sauce in the baking dish and over the shells.
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