Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stuffed Jumbo Shells w/ Spicy Vodka Cream Sauce

It all started with me in my kitchen, facing incredible boredom at the thought of cooking another "typical" dinner... I decide I need some excitement. I need some flavorful punches to the taste buds. I need to take a bite and have it quickly followed by a sigh of pure ecstasy. I decide I must create something delicious. I decide to let my creative juices flow, if you will. From my juices comes a delicious creation. When you bite into it, you will be transformed....I don't really know what I mean by just seemed to make the dramatic point I was going for. I promise you want to try this. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of this flavorful taste bud punching meal.

Spicy Vodka Cream Sauce

1 29 oz can of tomato sauce (not the spaghetti sauce)
1 can of plain tomato paste
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup cream or whole milk
2 tbs butter
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbs dried basil (of course, fresh is better, but i didn't have any)
2 tsp onion powder
2-3 tsp-ish cayenne pepper, or however much you want
salt and pepper to taste


2 15 oz containers of WHOLE MILK ricotta
1 hand full of shredded romano or parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups or so of cooked, ground spicy italian sausage
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
a drizzles worth of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

OK! Here's what your gonna do.
Start with cooking your italian sausage. While that's cooking your gonna start your sauce. I highly recommend using a deep skillet, a cast iron skillet is perfect. Set your temp at medium and add the butter and minced garlic. Once the butter turns a beautiful golden brown color, slowly add your vodka. It will probably sizzle, a steam. It's all part of the experience. After it's cooked down for about 2 minutes, add your milk. Mix it just a bit, and add your tomato sauce.  Turn the temp down to medium low. Once that starts to simmer add your tomato paste and mix it well. At this point, your sauce is probably going to taste a little bitter. Fear not! It will get better, I promise. Stir in all your seasonings and let it cook on low. Take your sausage off the burner and let it cool.

Next step, start the water to boil for the noodles. Add a little olive oil to prevent sticking. If your serving this with a salad and garlic bread, you'll probably only need 3 or 4 per person.

While your boiling your noodles, start the the filling. In a bowl add your ricotta, romano, spinach, sausage and a light drizzle of olive oil. Mix it well. At this point, give your sauce a taste test. Make any adjustments if you need to. Maybe a little more cream, or cayenne...

You don't want your noodles to be completely cooked, you need them to be a little sturdy while your filling them. You'll probably cook them for 5-7 minutes. Keep checking on them. When you think they are ready, just move them to a bowl and gently toss with a bit of olive oil so they don't stick together and rip. Stuff them as full as you can with filling with a spoon. Set them cheese side up, into the pan with sauce. You'll probably fit about 15 if you pack them close together. After you've filled the pan, turn the heat up to 3 and cover for about 15 minutes.

What is happening now is a thing of beauty. The noodles finish cooking in the sauce, the cheese gets warm and soft and the seasonings in the sauce start to form a close relationship. The outcome is....delicious!
Not only that, it is beautiful. Very pleasing to all of your senses. Plate them with the tips in the middle and drizzle a little sauce of them. I say drizzle, what i mean is, poor it on in a flattering manner. Take a bite...enjoy transformed by it!

If your left with more cheese than you could use, it stores great for 5 or 6 days. Save whatever sauce is left and make some for a delicious lunch the next day.

I hope you liked it, I certainly did!


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