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John's Roman Hell Shells
John Morrison formerly of Prego, Westin Resort Guam




2 lbs flank steak
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

5 strips bacon, julienne
1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 cup white wine

56 ozs tomato, canned, pureed
28 ozs water
1/4 tsp each black pepper and salt
1/2 tsp each basil, oregano, thyme
1 tsp chili flakes
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs Tabasco
1/2 cup tomato paste

24 oz jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente

2 cups Mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
48 ozs tomato sauce

2 cups Italian cheese(s)

Season flank steak and sear in a large heavy bottom pot on medium to high heat with olive oil until brown and then set aside. Adjust heat to low and render the fat from the bacon.

Use a food processor and mince carrot, onion and celery. Add these to the pot with bacon and cook slowly without browning. Add garlic. Deglaze pot with white wine and reduce to almost dry.

Add pureed tomato, water, seasonings, seared flank, 1 tablespoon of the Tabasco and cook barely simmering until meat is tender to the fork about 1 1/2 hours. Add more water throughout if necessary.

Separate meat and vegetable from braising liquid by straining (remove bay leaf.) Allow sauce to cool and set aside. Meanwhile, shred meat and vegetable in the food processor or chop roughly by hand. Add the strained braising liquid back to the pot then add tomato paste and reduce to a thick sauce on very low heat. Allow to cool.

Put cooled sauce in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of Tabasco and then add meat and vegetable mixture, cheeses, breadcrumbs and stir until well combined. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Take the cooked pasta shells and stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the meat and vegetable mixture. Add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper to 48 ounces tomato sauce. Pour the sauce into two large baking dishes and arrange stuffed shells in pans immersing shells in sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 325F for 20 minutes.

Uncover, baste with sauce, sprinkle with Italian cheese(s) and bake for an additional 5 minutes until lightly browned. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Yield: 10 servings

Additional Comments:

This recipe can be prepared ahead of time and split into two days - braising and shredding one day while stuffing and baking the next.

It is possible to halve this recipe and only serve 5 people instead of 10 if so desired.

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