I have always favored using ‘conchiglioni’ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.
Over the years, I have stuffed jumbo pasta shells with just about every imaginable filling I could conjure up. To say the least, I love this kind of meal.
Since we are just past ‘turkey season’ and if you are someone who enjoys that festive meal … here’s a new spin on it. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and gravy all tucked into some pasta shells.
Without a doubt, these shells were even better than I had expected and this recipe made enough that I froze some for another meal. What’s not to like about that?
Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells
Cook pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Drain & set aside.
In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground turkey with spices until no longer pink.
In a large bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, turkey, stuffing & green onions. In a small bowl, Stir sweet potatoes with chili powder.
Fill each pasta shell with 2 Tbsp stuffing mixture & 2 tsp sweet potato mixture. Combine 1 cup of gravy with any remaining filling & spread on the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place filled shells overtop, drizzle with remaining gravy & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake, covered for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with cranberry sauce if you wish.
Parsnips are one of those vegetables that very often gets over looked as being bland and tasteless. The unassuming parsnip has neither carrots’ obvious sweetness or potatoes mashable, fryable, butter-loving appeal.
I’ve always loved their sweet, mellow, complex flavor. To me, parsnips have a taste reminiscent of hazelnuts, cardamom and a gentle peppery spice. They are at their best after a few autumn frosts, which converts the tuber’s starches into sugar. In fact, if they are left in the ground over winter and dug at the first sign of spring, parsnips are nearly as sweet as carrots.
Over the years, I have used them in many different applications. Pork with parsnips is a common savory pairing but grating them into breads and spice cakes is equally good. Making cakes with vegetables used to be a necessary economy, while today we use it as a way to improve the quality and it adds a range of flavors we’d forgotten about.
Using some fresh root veggies at this time of year seems to be a good choice. This cheesy parsnip bake makes such a flavorful meal.
Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
Peel parsnips & cut into chunks. Cook in salted boiling water until they are tender, about 20 minutes.
In saucepan, heat oil & sauté onion until tender crisp. Add the mushrooms & cook gently for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in pork & fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until lightly browned.
In a small container, combine vegetable broth with cornstarch. Carefully add to meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken. Add extra broth if needed. Stir in chopped zucchini & cover. Turn heat to low & cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.
Turn oven on to broil. When parsnips are soft, mash thoroughly. Stir in butter, milk & grated cheese. Spoon pork mixture into an ovenproof dish. Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top. Place under a broiler until the topping starts to brown. Serve immediately.
Stuffed pork tenderloin is an amazing way to amp up a simple cut of meat. Pork tenderloin is incredibly tender since it is essentially the ‘filet’. Because there is very little fat in a tenderloin, its perfect to stuff with all sorts of tasty things to bring in both moisture and flavor.
The ‘old-fashioned’ idea of surf & turf seems to still retain an odd appeal. Having seafood and meat on the same plate lets you alternate bites and flavors from two realms, but there is a better way of mixing ‘sea & land’. Actually, combining seafood and pork so they cook together produces something quite amazing. Pork with its mild but rich taste complements the clean, delicate flavor of seafood.
This seafood stuffing uses a blend of rice and barley along with crab, shrimp and some veggies. The seasoning brings it all together into a real special meal.
Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing
In a saucepan, cook rice & barley in vegetable broth until tender; transfer to a large bowl. Sauté onion, celery & mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until tender-crisp.
Combine sautéed vegetables with rice/barley mixture in large bowl. Stir in shrimp & crab meat; sprinkle with seasonings & toss to combine.
Using a meat mallet, pound out the tenderloin strips very thinly, then divide stuffing between them. Roll tightly, encasing the filling inside. If necessary tie with kitchen twine.
Roll the pork rolls in seasoned flour to coat lightly. Heat the butter & oil in a large skillet & brown the rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a plate.
Add veg (or seafood) broth to skillet, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer making sure to stir in all browning bits from pork rolls; cook for 5 minutes. Season the broth with salt & pepper to taste, then pour into a casserole & place stuffed rolls on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve.
In 2019, Boston Pizza, a Canadian pizza chain created a Christmas pizza which literally consisted of a turkey dinner on top of a pizza crust.
The most notable aspect of their Christmas pizza was the ‘singing box’ it came in. The company had an advertising agency create a caroling delivery box. Using a play on ‘Carol of the Bells’, the jingle ran through the components of the holiday menu item: ‘cranberry sauce, gravy on top, turkey as well and also cheese. Why the cheese? Cause we love cheese, turkey & cheese, four kinds of cheese’.
Like those musical greeting cards that emit tinny tunes when you open them, the ‘Chorus of the Pizza’, playing box reportedly operated using a light senor device. When the box was opened, the music played, as soon as it closed, silence.
The singing box was to replicate carolers coming to your door, but it was better because they brought pizza and you didn’t have to stand awkwardly listening to people sing to you.
I’m not sure if Boston Pizza is using this kind of promotion in 2020, but based on their ad from 2019, I developed a Christmas pizza ‘copy cat’ recipe. Great taste and a nice way to use some leftover turkey.
Christmas Turkey Pizza
Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. In a small container, combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy.
In a large bowl, combine yeast/water, butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 5-10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour.
In a skillet, melt butter; add herbs & cook for 2 minutes. Pour in your choice of either heavy cream OR chicken broth. Heat until hot, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to either a 14-inch pizza pan or a flat baking sheet.
Carefully spread the 1/2 cup herb sauce over the bottom of the pizza (leaving the outside ring without sauce). Sprinkle a bit of the cheese over sauce then layer with turkey & stuffing. Drizzle with turkey gravy & top with remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush the outside edge of the pizza ring with egg wash.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice.
When you are ready to serve, dot pizza with cranberry sauce or just let everyone put on their own.
- As an alternate to the herb sauce, using 1/2 cup bottled lite Alfredo sauce w/ Parmesan cheese makes a good choice.