I always have Mexican ingredients on hand.
Don't get me wrong, I love Italian food, I just rarely prepare it, have a tiny, efficient pantry and have settled into a rhythm of Mexican flavors in my dishes.
I could eat tacos every day, but the family asks for pasta now and again. The truth is, I could go the rest of my life without eating pasta ever again but the family might stage a mutiny. That's how you end up with dishes like this.
Gloriously spicy, flavorful, cheesy, comforting and Mexi-fied dishes like this.
After my Tortillas con Flor de Calabaza experiement (and it's resulting tacos) I found myself with an abundance of leftover requesón cheese. (Find the recipe in the above post so you can prep the cheese ahead of time!) I also found myself with some leftover "El Pato" hot tomato sauce, some random cans of plain tomato sauce and some less than perky fresh tomatoes, onions and chiles, which needed cooking, like, NOW. I may have gone a little crazy at Vallarta Supermarket (a.k.a. "Disneyland") in addition to being blessed with some veggies from a friend. It was time to cook all the foods.
I decided to turn the produce into a salsa ranchera, (Full tutorial in my Instagram highlights, HERE), blended it with some tomato sauce and spices and *accidentally* made the best pasta dish I've ever cranked out of my kitchen. No joke, it was crazy, crazy good. Here's how it came together:
Stuffed Shells, Mexi Style:
For the Sauce:
6 Medium tomatoes, seeded.
1/4 of a red onion, sliced
3 serrano chiles, sliced
2 cups beef broth
1 clove garlic, peeled
salt to taste
4 tbsp oil, divided
1 can El Pato "hot tomato sauce" (the yellow can)
2 small cans tomato sauce
1/4 - 1 tsp smoked paprika (start small, increase according to your preference)
1/2 tsp cumin
liberal pinch Mexican oregano
Liberal pinch of sugar (I used turbinado...and this is optional)
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
In a medium skillet, heat two of the TBSP of oil over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion and chiles with a pinch of salt, sauteing until onions sweat and tomatoes start to break down. Add the garlic, saute until fragrant, careful not to burn. Add broth and simmer over low heat until onions are translucent. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. This is your salsa ranchera.
Add the salsa ranchera, cans of tomato sauce and can of el pato sauce to a blender. Puree.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil to a stock pot, over medium high heat. Add the sauce all at once, partially covering the pot with a lid to avoid the inevitable splatter. Wear an apron if you've got it and for pete's sake, no white shirts for this.
Stir the sauce to avoid sticking, season with smoked paprika, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt and sugar (if needed.) Reduce to low and simmer while you prep the shells. Come back for the parsley. ;)
For the Shells:
1 batch requesón, prepared as outlined in the link above.
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box jumbo shells, cooked, drained and cooled
Combine the prepared requesón and mozzarella. Scoop or pipe into shells.
Drop shells into simmering sauce, stirring carefully and often to avoid sticking.
Keep an eye on the sauce. It's ready when it's no longer watery and has thickened just a bit. You know how you like your pasta sauce, so cook it until it's whatever consistency that is. ;)
Add the parsley 3-5 minutes before serving.
Chopped Parsley (I like curly for this)
Don't skip the garnish if you can avoid it. Here's why:
Smokey, cheesy, spicy, delicious goodness. All the comfort of a pasta dish with all the flavors of Mexico. I'm happy, fam is happy.
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