Janet's Notebook
Hearty Pastas That Heat Up the Kitchen... and Your Imagination

Valerie Reeves' Sausage Stuffed Shells

While I am a firm believer that pure and simple is often best, there are times when a gal just needs to mix things up a bit! Such is occasionally the case in the world of pasta. Marinara is my rock. For years I have relied on it to carry me through Little League spaghetti dinners and church potlucks. It's a staple in my recipe repertoire, but recently it's gotten some tasty company in the form of jazzy pasta dishes that veer far left of your standard fare.

Take Brunswick, GA cook Laura Yoder, for example. Her Mexican Manicotti My Way is a kicky Latin-influenced take on traditional manicotti. "I was undecided on what to fix for supper," Laura explains about the night her recipe was born. "I was teetering between Mexican and Italian so I decided to experiment and this is what I came up with. I must say.... I did good!"

One of this recipe's biggest fans is most definitely Louisiana gal Debbie Wright, an honorary member of the Just A Pinch Kitchen Crew and an accomplished cook in her own right. When she first tried this dish, she was bowled over to say the least. "Oh my goodness!! This dish is fabulous," dishes Debbie. "Laura was right when she said she did good! The meat and bean mixture inside the pasta was perfect, and the creamy cheese and sour cream was the ideal touch on top." Pasta shells stuffed with Mexican seasoned beef and black beans? Now there's a way to spice things up!

Valerie Reeves of Murfreesboro, TN was also looking to up the ante when she came up with her deliciously hearty recipe for Sausage Stuffed Shells. "For years, I tried to find a recipe for stuffed shells and/or manicotti that included meat in the filling, so after lots of experimenting, I came up with my own!" says this saucy Blue Ribbon cook. We recently served Valerie's stuffed shells for a birthday get-together and the serving platter was scraped clean! What does Val's family think of her pasta invention? "My husband and kids beg me to make this," she admits. "They say it is the best pasta dish ever!" Now what mom could ask for a better endorsement than that? Way to go, Valerie!

Kids of all ages will most definitely love Angie Webb's go-to pasta mash-up: Mama Ang's Cavatini! A fairly new concept to me, cavatini is simply a pasta bake comprised of all different pasta shapes. Angie embraces the shapely penne, rotini and elbow pasta varieties for her yummy bake... a tradition in her family. "My mother used to make Cavatini for me on special occasions," says Angie. "Unfortunately, I never got her recipe. So, I came up with the closest I could find and added some lower fat options since I try to make healthy food for my family. My kids LOVE it (had seconds AND thirds!) I hope you like it, too!"

Not only do we love Angie's recipe, but we also loved the lighter ingredient options. Angie uses part-skim mozzarella and she also replaces the more traditional (and fattier) ricotta cheese with low-fat cottage cheese instead. This is such a handy trick for taking a bit of the bulge out of heavier pastas. The cottage cheese provides a creaminess similar to ricotta but with far less fat. Oh and it tastes good, too!

Go and and start mixing things up in your own kitchen! Try these delish dishes... or perfect a pantry-clearing pasta masterpiece of your own. Pasta is the canvas on which you can paint limitless combinations. Buon appetito!

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jannifer wolfe - Oct 17, 2011
We very much loved this ! My Granddaughter, had four plates. This was a hit and so easy to make ! Love this site!
Barbara Adams - Oct 10, 2011
These look wonderful! And will try them very soon! But while I am here can I ask what is probably one of those 'dumb questions' please? I am not a new cook, been cooking for decades in fact...but have always wanted to know the answer to this.....is there any real reason you cannot substitute self-rising flour for the all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and/or baking soda recipes?

I know there must be or it wouldn't be listed that way. On the other hand I have done so for years......though always knew in the back of my mind I am missing out on something by doing this. But what is it???
FREDA GABLE - Oct 7, 2011
All I did is read all of the Janet's NoteBook Letter above.
about 1/2 way thru the letter above is the name of the Recipe.
"Sausage Stuffed Shells", I clicked on it and there was the Recipe, Just that simple.

Sausage Stuffed Shells
Here it is again for those having dificulity getting the recipe.
Susan Feliciano - Oct 7, 2011
No trouble connecting to the recipe at all, and it looks wonderful! Thanks for this one.
Rachel DeVore - Oct 6, 2011
I was able to just click the words that are linked to the recipe and it took me right to it. The link works fine. Just look for the name of the dish "Sausage Stuffed Shells" and it appears as a link.
I can't wait to make this, it sounds wonderful.
Patricia Norman - Oct 6, 2011
I found it another way also (for future reference). I used the power search field, typed in Valerie Reeves' Sausage Stuffed Shells. On the page that pops up there are choices on the upper left side. Choose "Just Recipes" and there it is.
Faye Patterson - Oct 5, 2011
Hi all, the links all seem to be working fine... sorry some of you are having trouble finding this recipe...because it's so good!!! Here's the page where the article links to: Sausage Stuffed Shells
Robbie Cummings - Oct 5, 2011
I eveen received an email on how to get into this recipe and that doesn't work either. Must be something wrong with your site. Email me the recipe.
marilyn hadel - Oct 5, 2011
I am new to this site. and have tried everything to find this recipe
No Luck Why do you have to search for this?? other sites do not make you do this.
Jayne STUBBS - Oct 5, 2011
Please go to Valerie Reeves paragragh about how she came up with the recipe..You will see SAUSAGE STUFFED SHELLS..underlined..CLICK on that and it will bring you to the recipe.

All of us are so anxious to get the recipe as I was, did not read carefully enough to see the underlined word..SAUSAGE STUFFED SHELLS.

I know we all will be eating stuffed shells in the next few days and the recipe will be a "keeper". bon apetit'.
Jayne STUBBS - Oct 5, 2011
Good morning,
on Janet's notebook page tues 04OCTOBER with pics of shells. scroll down to Valerie Reeves of Murfreeboro, Tn..scroll to the underlined "Sausage Stuffed Shells"..click on those words and recipe will come up.

Have a great day .
pam lavens - Oct 5, 2011
experiencing the same problems as robbie. can someone just post the recipe and share where it can be found in the comment box????
Robbie Cummings - Oct 5, 2011
everything brings me back to her story about the stuffed shells. Maybe one of you who did get the recipe would like to post here in the comment box.
Robbie Cummings - Oct 4, 2011
There is no recipe and I have done everything others have said to do. Very frustrating. Your website is NOT user friendly.
Jude Veselak - Oct 4, 2011
Emily & Jayne Thanks Ive got it now! Duh!