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Playing Helper-Style Un-Stuffed Shells and Meat Sauce


  • 1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can diced or crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup passata plus a sprinkle of sugar or 1 can tomato sauce
  • A few leaves bail, torn
  • 1 pound medium pasta shells
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus additional to serve
  • Finely chopped parsley
For the Italian-American salad dressing
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese (optional)
  • For the salad: Chopped iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and sliced red onions


Serves: 4 servings


Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Place a saucepot or deep skillet over medium-high heat with EVOO, 1 turn of the pan. Melt butter into oil and when it foams, add beef and brown and crumble. Season with salt, pepper and oregano or marjoram; add onions and garlic, and cook to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, passata and sugar, or tomato sauce. Stir in basil and simmer 15 minutes.

Cook shells in boiling, salted water 1 minute less than package suggests for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy cooking water then drain pasta.
Combine pasta with ricotta, reserved starchy water and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; add sauce and toss to coat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve shells topped with more Parm and parsley.

For the salad, mix dressing in a Mason jar and shake to combine. Place salad ingredients in a serving bowl and toss with dressing. Serve with shells.