Q. I have a slight problem I’m hoping you can help me with. I’m hosting a big family event shortly, and am making stuffed shells as one of the dishes. The thing is, I’ve just been assigned a big project at work, and I’m not sure that I’ll have the time to make all those shells the day before the event. I was wondering if it would be possible for me to make the shells in advance and then freeze them until I need them. I don’t know if it would be best to freeze them with or without sauce. Can you freeze stuffed shells?
A. Yes, you can make and freeze stuffed shells in advance. You haven’t mentioned what you will be stuffing them with, but most stuffed shells tend to be stuffed with a mixture of ricotta and spinach. If that’s the case, it’s important to use a stuffing mixture that has been allowed to drain significantly before stuffing, to avoid it from becoming soggy upon thawing. You may also choose to only partially cook your shells before freezing, and then to finish cooking them upon thawing, or to cook them through fully and then simply reheat.
First, start with the shells. They must be at least pre-boiled to be soft enough for stuffing. Allow to cool enough to handle, and then stuff them with your stuffing of choice. You may choose to add your sauce to the shells at this point, but the sauce may become watery upon thawing. I recommend adding the sauce when ready to eat. Once all the shells are stuffed, they can be frozen. To freeze, place the shells on a lined baking sheet in the freezer just long enough for the outsides to harden slightly. This will prevent them from sticking together in the freezer. Then, place the shells nestled against each other in a hard sided freezer container, or in the baking dish you plan to use later. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then place the lid on top.
When ready to serve, remove the shells from the freezer. You can either cook the shells from frozen, or allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, cutting down cooking time dramatically. Remove any plastic wrap or lids that are not oven safe. Reheat the shells until heated through. Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the refrigerator.