Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad from Stuffed Shells Dinner

To accompany the stuffed shells with eggplant, I wanted a salad appropriate for the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Something hearty for the (hopefully) cooler weather to come, that still let something of the warm evenings linger. I opted for this Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad from Heather Christo, with a few modifications. First, I grilled the lettuce and the avocados for a late summer cookout touch.  As a bonus, grilling softens up not-so-ripe avocados. I couldn’t find pepitos, so I added croutons instead for some crunch.

Grilling Romaine Lettuce:

  1. Get the grill really hot. Hotter than you think. Even hotter than that. You want to quickly char the outside without wilting the rest.
  2. Spray cooking oil all over the hearts of romaine. Place them on the grill until the outside blackens. Flip and repeat.

Grilling Avocados:

  1. Slice avocados in half and remove the pit.
  2. Spray cooking oil on the flesh of each avocado half. Place flesh-down onto the grill. Let the flesh get good and seared.
  3. Remove skins and dice.

Making the Salad:


  • 3 head Romaine Hearts – Grilled
  • 1 bag butter lettuce
  • 4 avocados – Grilled then cubed
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Bag Herbed Croutons

Smoky Vinaigrette

  • 3 clove garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons agave
  • 9 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt


  1. Roughly chop the grilled lettuce.
  2. Toss lettuces, avocado, and shallots together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the Smoky Vinaigrette together in a small bowl and then drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.
  4. Sprinkle croutons over the top of the salad. Serve immediately.

Serves: 8-10

(adapted from website)

Stuffed Shells – First Post! (Dinner 9/17/2017)

  • Stuffed Shells (by Samantha/Patrick)

  • Garlic Bread (by Louis/Brandy)

  • Grilled Romaine and Avocado Salad (by Allison)

Hello! This is our first post of the Atlanta Dinner Club, and if you notice the date, we’re working through a backlog of our weekly deliciousness but will soon be posting regularly every week. As I type this, my stomach is grumbling in anticipation of Mushroom Bourguignon this evening – but we’ll save that for a different post!

Here is our Stuffed Shells recipe:

(adapted from website)

1 box of Barilla large shells
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 head garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp dried thyme
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
2 medium-sized Japanese eggplants, cubed
1 pkg. cream cheese, cubed
48 oz bottled Arrabbiata or other spicy tomato sauce
32 oz container of whole milk ricotta cheese
5 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
1.5 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 pkg. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
Additional part-skim mozzarella cheese for topping in the oven

To make the shells:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil with some salt added.
  2. Add shells to boiling water and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Drain well, mix with a bit of olive oil, and allow to cool before stuffing.

To make the tomato sauce:

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Add chopped garlic and onions and cook until onions are just translucent.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine: granulated garlic, garlic salt, onion powder, basil, oregano, and thyme. Add this spice mixture to the translucent onion mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Add cubed eggplant and mix.
  5. Add sausage and break apart the meat into bite-sized pieces or smaller as it cooks in the pot. Stir until the meat is almost cooked through.
  6. Add the cream cheese and allow to heat and melt into the meat and onion mixture.
  7. Add Arrabbiata or other spicy tomato sauce and boil for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in chopped fresh basil.

To make the cheese mixture:

  1. Mix thoroughly together ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, basil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and ensure proper incorporation of all ingredients.
  2. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary (ricotta usually needs quite a bit of seasoning).

To make baked stuffed shells in ramekins:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Spray edges of the ramekin with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Fill 3 cooked shells with ~1 tsp (regular little spoon) of cheese mixture and place them in the ramekin.
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of sauce on top of the shells.
  5. Add part-skim mozzarella cheese as a topping on top of the sauce.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Be careful! It will be hot!