I need to update but there kind of hasn't been much cooking going on since we got to Ohio.
For Christmas eve we had wine and cheese and more wine and more cheese and bread and cheese and wine. This entailed a nice search of the internet to discover just what was available north of Columbus, resulting in a trip to Vino 100 and half a loaf of an excellent gouda made by a 24-year old cheesemaker who started making cheese to save her family's dairy farm. It would be nice if I had some idea who this person is and what the cheesery is called, but I don't. (ADDENDUM: yes now I do! It was Blondie's Best from Pedrozo Dairy. Go internet!) On the other hand, the reason I don't is that it didn't even have a label on it, so that's all clearly good. It was even better to sit around and eat with a bunch of fig-pecan boursin and drunken goat and manchego and champagne and some more champagne and also bread. Then we put the shrieking baby niece to bed and opened adult presents.
For Christmas dinner we're having totally untraditional stuffed shells. They are totally easy and totally creamy, almost too creamy for John. We are combatting this by adding copious spinach to the filling. Also, spinach in stuffed pasta is great.
We haven't made them yet but I have a feeling they're going to go like this:
big shell pasta/other stuffing pasta
parsley, basil, oregano, etc
Make sauce first, so it can sit and get delicious while you do everything else. Chop up some garlic and sauté in olive oil with spices of your choice plus salt and pepper. I clearly like basil and oregano; if we were making it just for ourselves, we'd end up adding cayenne as well. If you want any other vegetables in your sauce, add them and soften them too. Then add tomato sauce and bring up to a simmer. Cover and cook slowly until you're ready to assemble the shells.
Pasta is easy: boil a package of shells until done. Drain. You could also use big manicotti or cannelloni: whatever has an appropriate aperture for stuffing. Or you could say screw it and make lasagna. This stuff would work fine.
While shells are boiling, wash and chop a bunch of spinach. Steam it over the pasta water (or over the sauce, I guess) for just a minute or two, until wilted. Then stick it all into a kitchen towel and squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it. Be serious and change towels if necessary. You want this as dry as possible so the resulting shells aren't watery.
Make shell filling: mix a tub of ricotta with half a ball of grated mozzarella and a some grated parmesan. Add some fresh chopped parsley, an egg, and the spinach. Mix really well and the filling is done.
Now is the time when you preheat the oven to 350F.
Assemble: spread a couple spoonfuls of sauce over the bottom of a big casserole dish. Use a spoon to fill shells full of ricotta business, then stick them into the dish. Pour/spread the sauce over all the filled shells, sprinkle with some more grated parmesan and/or mozz, and stick the whole business into the oven.
When the top is browned and starting to get crispy, you are done. Eat it!
Eat with copious salad business, bread, and red wine.
Also take pictures and remember to post them later.