I did a macaroni and cheese tasting for a local brewery a few weeks ago, and I did two more traditional dishes, then wanted something a bit more deconstructed for the third. I wanted something vegetarian, and I always tend to go with mushrooms when I am cooking meatless—they are so flavorful, and I just love their texture.
Jumbo shells are one of my favorite pasta dishes. They tend to take a bit more time and effort than a regular pasta dish, but I think they’re really impressive, and the effort of hand-stuffing them really pays off. The smoked gouda in this sauce can be overpowering—that cheese has tons of flavor—so I recommend you keep it at the ¼ pound the recipe calls for. All of the flavors here combine together perfectly. This really is a delicious dish.
Jumbo Stuffed Shells with Mushrooms and Smoked Gouda Sauce
- 1 package jumbo shells
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion - diced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 lb mushrooms - quartered crimini
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 ½ cups milk
- ¼ lb gouda - shredded smoked
- ¼ lb mozzarella - shredded
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- Cook the pasta to about 2 minutes less than package 'al dente' instructions, remove to a colander, rinse well to cool and allow to rest until needed. (To prevent the shells from sticking together while cooking, you might want to add a Tbsp or two of oil to the boiling water. I find it really helps.)
- While the pasta is cooking, start the mushrooms. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and cook the onions until softened, about 4 - 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, then increase the heat to high and add the mushrooms - seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly until the mushrooms have released their liquid and then that liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic and toss until there is no longer liquid in the skillet. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, until the mixture is smooth and forms stiff ridges when stirred and exposes the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure there are no clumps, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
- When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oven to 350 F and grease the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish.
- Stuff each shell with mushrooms, filling as much as possible. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the mushrooms, in case they have released a lot of liquid. Arrange the stuffed shells in the bottom of the casserole dish, then spoon a generous amount of sauce over each shell.
- Bake in the heated oven for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until heated through and the pasta is the perfect texture.
- Serve with a vegetable side of your choice. I served these over some lightly sautéed spinach and it was the perfect combination.