It might surprise you to learn that I only discovered my love for cooking after I was married. I was not always food-savvy. This is even more surprising when you factor in that my mom is a fantastic cook and we enjoyed family dinners every night. I guess I just took it for granted.
When I was in college and
Anyway, back to the awareness stage. We attended a small Wesleyan college, and while the location had charm, the food service left a lot to be desired. A home-cooked meal was something that we would have killed for. My friend, Kristen, and her equally adorable mom cooked us a home-cooked meal sometime in our sophomore (?) year. I still remember it - stuffed shells and garlic bread. There may have been a vegetable, but all I remember was how impressed I was by the stuffed shells.
Now, I previously mentioned my mom's meals - she made stuffed shells all the time. But, I never paid attention. This time, I remember being shocked at how easy it was to prepare something so tasty. I called my mom immediately and told her my discovery - stuffed shells had a small number of ingredients, they were easy, and so good. Her response betrayed the fact that she was waiting for the punch line.
Ever since that day - a defining moment in my journey - I have realized that cooking is not difficult, but it brings so much joy. I can't tell you how much I appreciated Mrs. Cook bringing that meal for us. It was love, pure and simple. I really should have written her a thank-you note. Kristen, if you're reading this, tell your mom, "thanks".
1. Prepare "jumbo shells" according to directions (to reach an al dente consistency).
2. Mix 1 egg, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 2/3 cup shredded parmesan, and 2 cups ricotta with desired spices (I used pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried oregano, and dried basil).
3. Fill each shell with 3 Tbsp of egg and cheese mixture.
4. Brown ground beef or sausage and mix with marinara sauce. Pour mixture over filled shells.
5. Sprinkle with additional mozzarella and parmesan.
6. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until cheese is browned and melted.
7. Serve to someone you love - they'll appreciate it!