Alright, folks. I'm ready for fall. I'm fully committed. I've spent the last two (yes, two) weekends in Asheville, elevated 2,000 feet above sea level in an attempt to simulate the change of seasons. (It didn't work.) I'm ready to turn on my oven on and bake some apple-related items and not start sweat like a pig the moment I exit my house. This dish is like a rain-dance but for the fall. Does that make sense?
Stuffed shells are the ideal food in many ways because you get bite variety and bite consistency. Have you ever listened to The Sporkful by Dan Pashman? You should. Bite consistency versus bite variety is a Dan Pashman concept that I super believe in. Confession: I sometimes find it stressful to eat salads with a fork because it's hard to make good bites that have lots of good stuff in them. If I eat a salad at home, I eat it with my hands out of a mixing bowl. Come over and I'll make you one.
Also, the tag line for the Sporkful "It's not for foodies, it's for eaters." Obviously this is amazing because the term foodies is absolutely the worst ever. Please never call me a foodie. I will cry. I have no interest in the food itself without the possibility that I get to consume it, which to me is what the term foodie implies. Dan Pashman is a homie and I would feed him stuffed shells any day of the week.
The other thing that is great about this meal is that it is stretchable. I originally intended to cook it solely for myself, but then my roommate came home. I offered her some, and then she informed me that 2 of our friends were also coming over. This easily fed them, but it also would have been easy to freeze the leftovers and eat them later. Or, I could have added even more ricotta to the mixture and stuffed more shells into the baking pan to feed a few more people. That's the kind of cooking I like - the kind that accommodates the constantly opening door that is my home.
Baked pasta dishes are uber-comforting, but this one is also full of vegetables and only medium cheesy, which means it is exactly the kind of dish that I would like to drop off to Hilz' hospital room right about now. She definitely needs some kale and eggplant and tomatoes, but also probably some cheese and pasta. I'm not a doctor but those are important medical strategies.
Stuffed shells are great for moments of need - keep a tray in your freezer and drop that ish off to a team member in need - Hilary in the hospital OR maybe just a friend who went through a breakup. Wherever you're at. Let's all live our best lives.
SPICY LAMB AND EGGPLANT STUFFED SHELLs
- 6 japanese eggplant
- 1 pound kale
- 1 pound extra large pasta shells
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 16 oz marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup pecorino cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and slice your eggplant lengthwise. Roast for 30 minutes or until tender. Let cool briefly then cut into bite-sized chunks and place in a mixing bowl.
While the eggplant is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil with a big pinch of salt. Slice the kale into ribbons and place in boiling water for two minutes, then use tongs to remove the kale from water and place in a colander. Add the shells to the water and cook according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add lamb, mixing to break up chunks. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until lightly browned. Add kale and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add to mixing bowl with eggplant and mix. Mix in ricotta and season to taste.
Lightly oil a 8x16 baking pan and use two tablespoons of filling in each shell, then place in your pan. Continue until either your pan is full or your filling is gone. Pour marinara sauce over shells, then grate cheese on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melty and shells are filled through.