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Stuffed Shells with Ground Turkey and Artichoke

February 11, 2012

I have been SO excited to share this recipe with you!  I absolutely love it!

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This was another delicious dish I prepared for dinner the night of my sister’s engagement.  We had an Italian feast, and this was the main dish!  I had seen it just a few days earlier while watching Giada at Home, and it really burned itself into my brain.  I had to make it the first chance I got!  What I love about it are the ground turkey and the artichokes.  Ground turkey has a very light texture and taste.  And the artichokes were a special treat!

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Raise your hand if you rarely cook with artichokes.  (Raising my hand.)  I might make a hot artichoke dip once a year for the Superbowl… but generally I steer clear.  I’m too lazy to cut up a fresh artichoke, and I don’t prefer the pickle-y flavor of canned artichokes.  Well, never again will I avoid this delicious ingredient for those reasons.  Meet my new best friend… the frozen artichoke!

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That’s right!  These babies are sitting right in your freezer aisle and are completely free of any hint of pickle-y-ness!  And what’s also nice is you can chop up just a few and keep the rest in the freezer for another time!  (Giada, you’ve literally changed my life with this one.)

So here’s what you’ll need to make these stuffed shells.  (You’re also welcome to look up Giada’s recipe… she adds pancetta ham and spicy red sauce.)

-1 box of jumbo shells   -your favorite jarred marinara sauce   -3/4 C. frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed)   -1 heaping cup of frozen artichokes (thawed)   -1 lb. of ground turkey   -1 egg (lightly beaten)   -1 tub (about 12-16 oz.) Ricotta cheese   -fresh Mozzarella cheese   -Parmesan cheese   -salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

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Start with the filling.  Generously sprinkle your ground turkey with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  It needs the added flavor.   (You can also sautee some real onion and garlic with the meat, but I didn’t have any on hand.)

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Heat up a few teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet.  (Turkey’s pretty lean so it’s nice to add in some healthy fat.)

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Then add the turkey to the pan.  Season the other side as you let the first side sear against the heat.  Try to let it get a little color before you start breaking it apart.

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Glorious.  Now, begin breaking it up with a wooden spoon and allow it to cook mostly through.  (You won’t cook it fully because it’ll get some oven time later.)

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When it looks almost fully cooked, drain off as much or as little of the fat as you want and remove it from the heat.

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Then grab a nice big pot and fill it with water for the shells.  Add a little handfull of salt.

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Dump in your desired amount of shells.  (My baking dish was able to fit almost this entire box… but the filling is enough for about a box and a half!  So ended up making a small dish with the leftover shells and filling for us to eat another night.  Good decision.)

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Now, these are going to boil until almost fully cooked.  So keep and eye on them and boil for about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, you can chop up your spinach and artichokes!  When I’m eating an artichoke, I like to know I’m eating an artichoke… so left these pretty chunky.

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Toss these together into a big bowl.  You’ll need room for lots of other ingredients.

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Check your shells.  Are they just shy of al dente?  Then they’re perfect!  (Remember, the oven will soften them more.)  So pull the pot off the heat and empty them into a collander.

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I’m going to let them sit here awhile to cool… so a good spray of cooking oil keeps them from becoming one solid mass.  That’s important.  (You can also lay them out individually on a sheet pan to cool, but I’m not about dirtying up my sheet pans.)

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Back to the filling.  Grate in some nice, tangy Parmesan.  (About 1/4 C.)

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Then add your (already beaten) egg.  My egg is supposed to already be beaten, it’s better that way, really.  But sometimes laziness strikes me with the force of a hurricane.  There is no excuse.

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Next comes the Ricotta cheese.  This adds cheesiness to the filling while also lightening it up nicely… it’s awesome!

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Next we need a good amount (3/4 a teaspoon each) of salt and pepper.  (Garlic and onion powder here would also be great… just a few pinches.)

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Use a fork to blend this glorious mixture together.

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And crumble in the (now cooled) meat.  You can use less meat if you want and save the rest for another use.  I used all of it just because I was feeding a few men and I wanted to dish to be manly.  (Heck… if it had just been me… I’d have been happy enough with just the artichokes and spinach!)

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From here, it’s just assembly.  (This dish is actually pretty easy to throw together!  And yet, it’s such an impressive finished product.)

First… lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray.  Then spoon a bit of marinara into the base of the dish.  This keeps the pasta moist and helps it not to stick.

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Then, generously stuff your shells with the filling.  I use a spoon to really mound it on and then smooth it into a rounded dome of deliciousness.

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Pack them close together like little sardines in the dish.  The tighter they are, the more they’ll help keep each other facing upright so that the filling doesn’t melt and run out of them.

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Doesn’t that look splendid?  Now it’s time for more sauce.

Really douse the top.  (I don’t like getting a piece of shell that dried out in the oven so I always cover every corner.)

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Once you’ve spooned sauce over every shell, slice up some fresh Mozzarella…

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And layer it on.  Fresh mozzarella is so special.  You can always tell when it’s the real thing!

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Finish with a light dusting of salt and pepper.  (Mozzarella, while creamy and spectacular, can be a little bland.)  You can also add another dusting of Parmesan here too if the mood strikes ya!

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This just needs about 25 minutes in a 375-degree oven.  I like to cover it with foil for the first twenty minutes, then take it off for the last five.  If you want the cheese to brown up a little, just use the broiler for the last minute.  (But watch it close!)

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The newly engaged couple was very pleased with dinner.  (Of course, they probably would’ve been on Cloud Nine even if I’d served them a plate of dog food.  But I digress.)  We all loved the stuffed shells, and I will definitely make these again and again!

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I’m so glad Giada inspired me to make this one, and I hope I’ve given you the itch to go hunt down frozen artichokes in your freezer aisle as well.

Enjoy!

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You may also enjoy…

Lasagna with Meat Sauce                                                Our Favorite White Lasagna

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. april russum permalink
    February 12, 2012 6:09 am

    You look so great! How far along are you now? Noticing the “thickening” of the wasteline yet? I always hated how no one could tell I was prego, but I felt myseft getting…soft :o) Anyway, I know you will be so cute all the way through. I’m gonna try this recipe…looks wonderful!

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