Different can be good, and this dish confirms it!
I’ve been wanting to do stuffed shells for a while now, but I wanted to try something different. When I originally thought ‘different’, I thought maybe a Mediterranean style stuffed shell, or sausage, vegetables – something away from ricotta and spinach, you know? (Not to knock ricotta and spinach, of course).
I looked around the Internet for different ‘stuffed shell’ recipes, and nothing popped out at me until I came across this recipe. Yams? Walnuts? With tomato sauce and cheese? You’ve got to be kidding me.
But, I love a good challenge!
I’ll be the first to admit that while I was making this, I was skeptical of how these components would work together (or if they would at all). I was trying really hard to understand how exactly the tomato sauce was supposed to compliment the yams. I think it would depend on the sauce. My sauce was pretty acidic to begin with, so I added some brown sugar to tone down the acidity. Also, since brown sugar typically goes with yams, I figured eh – no harm done! The concept made sense and in the end, it was a decision well made, because…
This recipe WORKS! Holy moly, I was floored. I really want to give mad props to the guy who thought this up (by the sound of it on his blog, this was total improvisation). I don’t know if it was luck, or super advanced knowledge of secrets in the culinary world. Either way, YUMMY.
This recipe called for a can or jar of tomato sauce, but I made a quickie from scratch and let it simmer all afternoon.
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 basil leaves
- 6 tbsp. Italian seasoning (a blend of oregano, thyme and basil)
- 156 ml can of tomato paste
- 796 ml can of crushed tomatoes
- 540 ml can of stewed tomatoes, drained
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
Yam Stuffed Shells
- 30 large pasta shells, cooked al dente (I only baked 20 here, and packed the rest away for my BFF who gets my leftovers!)
- 2 large yams, boiled and mashed
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
3 tbsp. of butter
1 tsp of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Entire pot of homemade pasta sauce as noted above, or a 28 oz can of tomato sauce – depending on what you go with.
1.5 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
Fresh chives for garnish
If you are making your sauce homemade, start with your sauce a few hours before you start your shells.
Mince 3 cloves of garlic and brown them in a pot with olive oil.
Add the tomato paste, stewed tomatoes and crushed tomatoes. Give it a good stir. The stewed tomatoes are lumpy at first, but they will fall apart as they cook. I find that they give the sauce a nice and thick texture, which I like. Add all of the other ingredients, stir well, and simmer on low for 2-4 hours.
Now, for the filling.
This filling is pretty darn versatile! I think it would be great in ravioli, and you could even use it in a vegetarian lasagna, or as a spread of some sort.
Peel the yams, and cut them into cubes. Boil them in salted water for approx. 15 mins or until they are tender.
When they are done, smash them in a bowl. I used a hand blender to whip mine.
Yum! Tempting to lick but…probably not a good idea.
Now, to flavour the filling: a white onion, sage, and garlic.
Mince all of the above. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the minced onion, sage and garlic. Cook this at a low temperature to avoid caramelization. We don’t want to brown anything here, we just want to soften things up a bit.
When done, add this to the mashed yams. Then add the Greek yogurt, cream, walnuts and chili peppers. Mix it thoroughly.
When cooking the pasta, you only want to cook the shells until they are al dente. They will continue to cook in the oven later, and you don’t want them to turn mushy. The mushy texture belongs inside the shell!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stuffing the shells is easy peasy. Prepare a large baking dish by covering the bottom with a layer of tomato sauce.
Then, stuff a few spoonfuls into the shells and set them down into the baking dish. When all the shells are stuffed, spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over the shells and top with shredded mozzarella.
Cover loosely with tinfoil, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins. Remove the tinfoil, and bake at 400 for 15 mins.
Then, serving time! Garnish with some fresh chives.