Love-stuffed Shells

Last Saturday, my hot gf and I attended a benefit show for a comedienne friend of mine who passed away recently. My buddy Chris, who was very close with her, did a spectacular job producing the show and bringing everyone together for an evening full of laughter and heartfelt celebration through the comedy and stories of those comedians who knew her best. The place was packed.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Amy at a comedy festival in 2012. The show was winding down to the final comic, when this petite, harmless-looking blonde girl took the stage and suddenly erupted into a wild 5-minute tirade of bizarre antics and gesticulations without the slightest bit of reservation. She left the audience floored, and me reevaluating why I do comedy. I ran into her months later at a local bar (turned out we were neighbors), where I discovered she was genuine, sweet, and funny as hell in person too–a double whammy in the comedy world. Some of us aren’t that funny in person, or on stage. I found myself reevaluating myself again.

Last year, I got to perform with her on a show. While I paced around the back of the room in a mental quandary, she calmed my amateur nerves by instilling words of encouragement like “Who cares?” and “Fuck ‘em!” I had a decent set that night, but no one could top Ricky Wells, her token portrayal of a strange, white trash guy sporting a mullet. She embodied him so well that if I hadn’t known her, I would have thought some short, cussing redneck had been booked on the show. She was truly one of a kind. It’s disheartening to know we won’t get to see her, or Ricky, ever perform again.

For the grand finale at her benefit show, Chris had all the comics get on stage to sing along to her most well-known joke. It was one of the most unique and intimate experiences I have ever had on the stage, if not life. I felt sad yet empowered singing her lines with everyone, and couldn’t help but laugh while chanting, “Don’t let the Yeti touch you, late at night! He’s got grabby hands. He wants to touch you! He looks like Santa Claus, but he’s not Santa Claus!” Only, not nearly as outrageous or crazy as she could ever perform it. I’ll always cherish the impression she left on me.

If you would like to support a great cause, please make a donation to Amy’s Alliance For NYC Animals.

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When the show ended, the first thing my hot gf suggested was to make some food for my buddy to ensure he was eating well. Take it from her for his diet to be a main concern. She decided stuffed shells would be her way of offering support. I felt grateful to have someone so loving and considerate in my life, even if towards another man. Especially when she made me a tray too.

cheese in bowl

stuffing shells

uncooked shells1

It really excited me to surprise him with her food. I don’t normally do anything nice for anybody and I’ve got to admit, this whole notion of “giving” felt really good. It also helps that her food is really good. If it was only mediocre I probably would have just taken him out to dinner.

When I handed him the tray, I didn’t tell him it what it was because I wanted to picture his reaction when he opened it in his kitchen. Judging by his text, “Stuffed shells is my language man,” I’m thinking he was pleased.

Funny, her stuffed shells were my language too. My hot gf must speak a universal language with her cooking. Good food always comes from the heart. Find it in your heart to cook for someone you care about and share these stuffed shells with them today!

Chef’s Note: I did not know The Boyfriend’s friend who passed but this show made me wish I did. It was put together really well and celebrated her life in a very uplifting way. I found myself becoming emotional even though I didn’t know her. Her friend Chris that put it together was her best friend and I’m sure not really worrying where his meals are coming from right now. Further to what The Boyfriend said, you can feel love in a dish and I put my heart into everything I make.

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Stuffed Shells

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 40 min
Serves: 6-7

Ingredients

  • 15 oz. container park skim ricotta (feel free to also use whole milk ricotta)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, shredded plus a few tbsps for topping
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded plus 8 slices for topping
  • 1/4 cup fontina, shredded
  • 12 oz. box shells
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp basil, chopped plus more for topping
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (myrecipe! Or a favorite of your own)
  • salt, freshly ground pepper

Prep Work

-Preheat oven to 375º

Steps

  1. Cook shells until a little harder than al dente, drain (they will cook a bit more in the oven).
  2. Use one 9x12 rectangular pan and put a layer of sauce on the bottom. Line the shells on top of the sauce, opening them up as you put them in the pan. (You will notice from the photos I used 2 square pans because I was splitting this up, so this also works - the square pans were 8")
  3. Make cheese mixture - in a large bowl mix together ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, fontina, eggs, basil, parsley, garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  4. With a teaspoon start spooning cheese mixture into shells.
  5. Top pan with more sauce, slices of mozzarella and freshly torn basil.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Serve with extra tomato sauce if desired (usually is).

Notes

You can make this dish ahead of time. You can assemble it up until the point of baking and freeze or you can bake it and easily reheat it in the oven or even the microwave.