When I was a kid growing up on Long Island, and my grandpa John Tortorello would go out to dinner with us on the weekend, we'd all go out as a family to Umberto's in New Hyde Park or Borelli's in East Meadow. I knew for certain that he'd order the same thing every time.Now you have to understand, Grandpa John is a character, a former police detective, a great storyteller, a joke-teller, and, well, a little, um, unpredictable. Let's just say you never knew what kind of a story he was going tell you and leave it at that. So it was always kind of funny to me that he would pretty much order the same thing when we'd eat out: stuffed shells.Now there were only ever two dishes he'd ever make for us. One was chili and the other was a side, roasted peppers. So he didn't have a philosophy on how he'd make stuffed shells, but he did have a philosophy about them at restaurants. "If they make good stuffed shells, the rest of the menu is probably pretty good too," he's explained to me.There's some wisdom to this that I buy into. No, you get no indication of how well they do meat, but if they do stuffed shells right at a restuarant then they know how to make a good sauce, they have good cheese blends, good cheese coverage, they know how to use the right ratio of cheese to sauce, and they know how to cook their pasta. My barometer isn't shells, it's manicotti, but I buy into the approach. The cheese can't be dry inside the shells, there has to be some mozzarella in there, some cheese variation. There has to be good covering of cheese that's crisped and burned a bit in places, there has to be plenty of cheese, and there has to be enough sauce — more sauce than cheese.It goes without saying, that pasta better not be overcooked.I usually make my own sauce because it's really not very hard and it's so much better than anything else you're going to find, but as homage to the red-sauce joints of my youth, this recipe isn't from scratch, it relies on store-bought sauce and shells, and it's a little more of a stuffed shells Italian casserole, but I don't think Grandpa John would disapprove and neither will you.
A stuffed calamari recipe prepared by Chef Luigi Diotaiuti of Al Tiramisu restaurant in Washington D.C.
"Don’t mistake this beautiful second course for a simple, home style one. While most of the calamari dishes served in the US consist of battered and fried rings that can conceal second rate quality, this dish requires top notch ingredients. The quality of cheese, bread, and calamari itself all play a role in elevating this plate to new heights. Serve with polenta or mashed potatoes." — Chef Luigi Diotaiuti
This is one deliciously rich way to use up your leftover Tagalong cookies. Whip up a simple frying batter, heat your oil, and then dip the cookies in the batter before frying to a perfect golden-brown. Dust the fritters with powdered sugar and serve while warm and the centers are still melted.
This vegetarian version of a stuffed eggplant uses tofu and Asian flavors to create a hearty meal that satisfies even the biggest carnivores. Serve with aromatic Jasmine rice for a healthy, no-fuss dinner.
A great bowl of minestrone is hard not to love, but is even better with some fresh crabs thrown in and served alongside crabmeat stuffed shells. The crabmeat makes it a more substantial meal, and the minestrone is a great sauce for the shells.
Nothing screams fall more than acorn squashes, and when they're stuffed with other seasonal ingredients like mushrooms, chickpeas, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds, they become a delicious cold-weather dish. This recipe uses quinoa as a base for the stuffing and adds unique ingredients like cilantro to create flavor unlike any other.
I’ve been eating stuffed grape leaves by the can since I was a kid – my mom used to pack them in my lunchbox, much to the outspoken skepticism of my Fluffernutter-eating peers. The best part about making these yourself is there’s no way to just make a dozen or two. A jar of grape leaves contains about 40, so it’s dolma mass-production no matter how many people you’re feeding.
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In Puerto Rican cuisine there is a popular dish known as pastelitos, or meat pies, which entails the use of plantain leaves. A portion of cornmeal and meat filling is place on a leaf, which is then folded to give the meat pie its shape. Lastly, the meat is carefully removed from the plantain leaf and then deep-fried, hopefully retaining its form.