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I {Heart} Italian Food

Italian food is by far my favorite!  I would pretty much eat pasta every day of my life if I could.  My mom has always fixed some great Italian meals growing up.  But, by far, stuffed shells is my favorite meal that my mom has ever fixed.

These stuffed shells and meatballs were, with only a few exceptions, the dishes I requested every time my mom asked me for dinner preferences.  We've eaten this for almost every one of my birthday dinners that I've had at home.  I love it so much!  To me, this meal is perfect.  Just perfect.

It makes a TON of shells and meatballs, so I usually half each recipe.  But this time I made the full batches for a dinner party and still had plenty to freeze for later!  Both the shells and meatballs freeze wonderfully so that you can save some for a super easy meal later.  For the shells, I highly recommend flash freezing them seam side up on a parchment lined cookie sheet before putting them into a freezer bag to store.  They're much more likely to stick together, lose their shape, and cause problems when thawing if you just freeze them right in a bag.

Stuffed Shells
From: My mom (yet again!)
Makes: about 3 dozen shells

Ingredients:
16 ounces jumbo shells (give or take, you're always going to have some break while boiling)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 large jar of spaghetti sauce

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil shells as directed on the package; drain.
  3. Mix all other ingredients, except sauce, in a large bowl.
  4. Stuff filling into shells and place seam-side down in a greased baking dish.
  5. (Freeze shells at this point if you want to save them for later.)
  6. Spoon sauce generously over shells.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. If desired, sprinkle with more mozzarella cheese and return to oven for 1-2 minutes to melt cheese.

Meatballs
From: My mom
Makes: about 4 dozen

Ingredients: 
1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
  1. Combine eggs, milk, onion, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add enough breadcrumbs to make a ball.
  3. Add meat and mix well.  Beware, the best way to do this is with your hands, but they will get really, really cold!
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls.
  5. Place in a skillet and brown slowly, stirring often.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
  7. (Freeze at this point if saving.)
  8. Place in a greased baking dish and cover with sauce.
  9. Heat in the oven while the stuffed shells are cooking.

Like I said, this meal is divine!  It's perfect with a fresh, green salad and some homemade bread.  Woohoo!  I'm having leftovers for lunch again today, and my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

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