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vegetarian experiment

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My meat free lent was definitely a challenge. While some days I pushed myself to find a new dinner, there were many dinners that involved cheese, eggs, pasta with butter. Not everything was worthy of a post, or even a photo. Grilled cheese, egg salad, plain pasta, steamed veggies with rice aren’t very inventive.

One thing I did try was artichoke stuffed shells. I am a huge fan of artichoke hearts. I love them in salads, dips, risotto, with other veggies, even pureed by themselves and spread on crostini. When I saw this post about them, I knew this was something I wanted to try, although I knew I wanted to tweak the recipe.

Shells and filling:

  • 18 jumbo shells
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • half an onion, chopped
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 c. grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 c.  grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  •  ground black pepper to taste

sauce:

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1c. whole and 1c. 2% to lighten things a bit)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  •  ground black pepper to taste

Cook your shells according to package directions and drain. Toss in a tsp. of olive oil to prevent sticking.

While the pasta is cooking, make your filling. Melt butter in a skillet and cook it until brown, stirring occasionally. When the butter is evenly browned, add a tbsp. of olive oil and your onions. Continue cooking until the onions are softened and browning. Add the artichoke hearts and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the wine and finish cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Let this mixture cool.

Remove heart mixture from the pan and add it to a bowl with cheeses, egg yolks, and lemon juice. You can either mix this in a bowl or process with a food processor. I decided to leave it chunkier. After mixing these ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.

For your sauce, you’ll melt the butter in a saucepan. When the butter is melted, add the flour and proceed with your roux, stirring constantly. Add the milk a little add a time, while whisking. When all the milk is combined, add your garlic and bring the sauce to a boil. When thick, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 4 minutes, then add your ricotta cheese. Turn off the heat and finish with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350.

Take some of your sauce and put it in the bottom of the dish. Place stuffed shells in the sauce and cover them with the remaining sauce. Cover the pan with foil for 30 minutes, then remove foil and finish baking until the sauce is brown.

This is a very decadent dish, but when not eating meat, sometimes you need a little something heavy and fancy as a change of pace.

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