Product: Tinkyáda Brown Rice Grand Shells – $3.39+
You know…I do have to give major props to Tinkyáda as a whole when it comes to gluten-free pasta options that are out on the market today. They definitely have the best variety when it comes to options. Normally the grocery store will have your basic fusilli, penne, spaghetti…but Tinkyáda actually has a couple of different options out there. For that, I am beyond appreciative.
One such option that is difficult to find, but worth the search or possibly the Internet order…is Tinkyáda’s Brown Rice Grand Shells.
In other words…a gluten-free option for anyone who has been craving stuffed shells.
Like I had been.
And on a whim one day while out at the grocery store, I spotted some Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese in the vegan/vegetarian refrigerated section and bought it. Why? I have no idea. I wanted to try it. Tofutti makes the best vegan sour cream and a really great vegan cream cheese…so why not give the vegan ricotta cheese a try, yes?
I’m a chef in my own mind…the answer to that is always…a resounding, “YES!”
So, I purchased it. And took it home. I popped it into my refrigerator.
And then…it just…sat.
But it donned on me this past weekend while out grocery shopping…that I had purchased a box of Tinkyáda Brown Rice Grand Shells this past summer while in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a race. I stopped by the Gluten-Free Trading Company and made a point to purchase a box of those. Why? Because my friend Jenn and I ended up ordering some on the Internet awhile back and we still haven’t used them. So…I now got to be the guinea pig.
After a long, hectic day at the office, I got home and immediately put a pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil. I retrieved this pasta from the pantry and popped it open to take a look. If you, like me, were expecting “normal” sized jumbo shells…like the “real” stuff you can buy at the store if you can eat the regular stuff…you will be disappointed. I sort of was.
These Grand Shells…are definitely much smaller than the average shell you would use to make stuffed shells. So, I did feel my heart drop a little upon opening up the box. I checked the serving size…and it said that the box held 4 servings. So I counted out the shells and found I had 28 of them. Awesome. I always allow for pasta rippage and general carnage when using larger noodles. You might recall my unfortunate incident with the Tinkyáda Lasagna Noodles…and how they stuck together and then promptly fell apart into pieces, making my lasagna…a little interesting to put together. So…I dumped the entire box into the boiling water and cooked it for about 18 minutes, just so that it was al dente.
While the noodles cooked, I said a prayer to the gluten-free pasta gods for a little luck when it came to the shells. Maybe, just maybe enough of them would be useable. If not…I’d have to get really creative with my stuffed shell meal. So, with the shells boiling away, I set to prepping my filling for the shells.
I totally made this up. All I knew was that I wanted to use the Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese. So, I scooped out a cup of it and put it in a bowl. From there…it needed to be seasoned. So I grabbed some dried herbs from my spice rack and just started eyeballing things. In went the parsley, sage, thyme, basil, and oregano. Then, a little garlic salt, some crushed red pepper flakes, a touch of cayenne pepper, and a little garlic powder. I mixed it all together. Then, I grabbed the green onions I had from my CSA bin and chopped those up, both parts…the white and the green, and threw them into a pan to sautee in a little olive oil. Out of the fridge came the vegan and gluten-free chorizo that I got at Trader Joes. I added it to the pan after the onions had softened and just allowed it to heat through. Finally, I threw in some minced garlic, let that heat for about 30 seconds until it was fragrant…then took it off the heat. I let it sit for a few minutes, then emptied that into my ricotta cheese mixture and folded it all together.
At that point, my shells were just about ready. I set up the colander to drain them, and picked up the large pot of noodles. Holding my breath, I poured the contents into the colander, expecting torn bits of these grand shells to tumble out. But, for the most part, the shells were completely intact. Color me impressed! I gave the shells a rinse in cold water and then shook them carefully out to get most of the water out. I brought them over to my work station and prepped my casserole dish with some tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Daiya mozzarella shreds.
Then…the exciting part. Stuffing the shells.
I handled each shell carefully at first, afraid that one single wrong move would cause the shell to tear or fall apart. Let’s face it…rice noodles have this reputation of getting mushy. And they have that reputation because…it happens. One tablespoon of filling went into each of the “grand” shells, because that gave them the perfect stuffed appearance. As these shells don’t fold over like normal shells, I laid them in the pan face up, instead of down, because I didn’t want my stuffing to fall out into the pan. The entire point of having stuffed shells is that they are…stuffed. Only a few shells didn’t make the cut. And the rest I had leftover were tossed only because I ran out of stuffing. It happens. Next time…more stuffing.
So now, the shells had survived boiling, draining, rinsing, and stuffing. And they were still holding their form. Still impressed. So, I took the remainder of my tomato sauce and poured it over top the shells. A sprinkling of Daiya mozzarella shreds went over the top. Then, into the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes it went.
And I managed to squeeze in some time with my yoga mat while it baked away. I uncovered the dish for the last 5 minutes of baking and hoped for the best.
Out of the oven they came and I took a moment to marvel at how amazing the pasta still looked. The big test now was how they would hold up as I transferred them from the casserole dish to the plate.
The Tinkyáda Brown Rice Grand Shells passed with flying colors. I scooped up each shell in the cradle of a spoon and carefully deposited a serving on a plate. They didn’t fall apart at all. I was SO impressed. Now it came down to taste.
My roommate and I settled in with our dinner and she took the first bite. She raved about the filling. And then said that the noodles were actually really good. She loved how they were like regular ones in that you slice into them, and they squish down and the filling fills up the fork. I couldn’t agree more. Some of the shells were still a little too al dente…but the sauce and filling helped with that. Of course, the true test will come tonight when I reheat the shells and see if they still hold up as well after spending the night in the fridge.
As far as brown rice pasta goes, Tinkyáda is one of my go-to brands. I haven’t met a noodle I didn’t like from them. Honestly. The box of Tinkyáda Brown Rice Grand Shells has 4 servings in it. That’s actually a lot of shells…so you can probably squeeze out more to be honest. Even if they are smaller than the average pasta shell. A serving as 210 calories, which is right there with regular shells, so that’s a plus. The serving has only 2 grams of fat and 43 grams of carbohydrates for all you gluten-free athletes out there. Oh…and 4 grams of protein as well. Loving that. What’s even better is that the ingredients couldn’t be more basic: stone-ground brown rice, rice bran and water. Yep…I love ingredients that I recognize and can tell you exactly what they are. Love that this has nothing questionable in it.
So, all-in-all…a great showing for Tinkyáda when it comes to these “jumbo” (I use the term loosely) shells. I won’t complain. They did the job. And, as far as I have seen, Tinkyáda is currently the only gluten-free pasta company that offers something remotely close to the jumbo pasta shells out on the market. So, there is definitely a niche there and one that I am happy they filled.
Much love, Tinkyáda…and appreciation. Because my stuffed shell craving has been satisfied. Now…if only my local stores would start carrying these in their inventory…