Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

Nothing’s nicer than a home-cooked meal. Unless, of course, it’s another one waiting for you in the freezer. These Turkey and Artichoke stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce are all that. Make them over the weekend for a soothing homemade meal. Served up saucy and piping hot, they’re flavorful and filling for a perfect Sunday dinner. Or, divide between dishes and freeze, so you can make one to bake now, and another one (or two!) to bake later. 

Make this plant-based by leaving out the turkey or using a plant-based crumble that you like. I made these dairy-free by using Kite Hill Ricotta Alternative Made with Almond Milk and Daiya Dairy Free Cutting Board Italian 4 Cheese Style Shreds. Because gluten-free shells can be a little hard to find, your best bet is to order them ahead of time from Amazon. They list an 8-ounce box of Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta Grand Shells for $7.35. I didn’t do this in time, so I ended up spooning my dairy-free portion onto some gluten-free rigatoni, and it was as deliciously close to a stuffed shell as I remember. 

If you don’t want to use frozen artichokes, the canned ones will work well for this recipe. I used a 14-ounce can that was well-drained, which let me skip the thawing step. The original instructions were to mix all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, but I recommend mixing the eggs, cheese and herbs together first, just as you would for lasagna or ravioli. Once all of these are evenly combined, add the turkey mixture and stir again. Remove pasta from the cooking water after about 4 to 5 minutes. You want the shells to be still quite firm, so that they’ll hold their shape for stuffing, and also won’t overcook or fall apart after you bake them. 

Arrabbiata sauce is a spicy, Italian, tomato-based sauce made from garlic, tomatoes and dried red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. It was popular in the 1950s and 1960s – a time when hot, spicy food was in vogue in Roman cuisine. Arrabbiatta literally means “angry” in Italian, so here that translates to “angry” sauce. A sizable amount of red pepper flakes are what gives the sauce such spicy heat, but you can also use your favorite jarred or homemade sauce and doctor it to your liking with a generous bit of red pepper flakes.  

Use smaller casserole dishes, or pie plates, to make several smaller servings. I used an 8×11 to bake a portion for Sunday’s dinner, and then filled an 8×8 square baking dish for the freezer.  Just be careful that any dish you are using is able to go from freezer to oven. If your casserole is thawed, it can be baked following recipe directions. To safely thaw, place your casserole in the refrigerator overnight and allow for extra baking time if needed. If you’re baking from frozen, put the casserole in the oven, then set the temperature and let it warm up slowly while the oven heats. Casseroles should reach 165º F for food safety. 

Cover frozen casseroles with a layer of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, then cover again with aluminum foil. Write the date, name of the recipe, baking temperature and cooking time on the foil with a Sharpie. When you’re ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and cover again with the foil. Enjoy this tonight, and with one or two in the freezer, you can enjoy it again.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

  • 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 8-to 10-ounce package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped 
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta. 

Warm olive oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes; add garlic. Add ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper and stir together. Add the cooled turkey mixture and stir to combine.

To stuff shells, cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful (about 2 tablespoons) of turkey mixture. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish, then continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle some of the remaining Arrabbiata sauce over the shells and top with grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month. 

To bake, preheat oven to 400º F. Bake until shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen). Serve with additional sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Arrabbiata Sauce

approximately 6 cups 

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat olive oil in a large pot oven medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use. 

-Giada De Laurentiis

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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