Read This Before Ordering Stuffed Shells At An Italian Restaurant

It's no secret that when it comes to Italian food, Americans tend to lose their minds a little bit. It's quite possible that we'll buy anything with pasta, pesto, or parmesan. In fact, we love Italian food so much that according to a 2019 YouGov study, Americans gave the famed Italian fare an 88 percent score when it comes to the most popular global cuisine in the United States. With over 75,000 businesses in the Italian food industry in the U.S., according to IBISWorld, Italian restaurants and establishments can be found almost everywhere.

From pizza parlors to acclaimed chains, to ristorantes serving pasta plates that can cost some of us our entire paychecks, the noticeable takeover of Italian fare is incredibly evident across the country. And let's be honest here, who could resist a tasty pasta special from their favorite Italian spot? Leaving patrons with full stomachs and happy hearts, Italian restaurants are easily our go-to option for family dinners and special celebrations. Yet, though the dinner specials might sound tempting, there are sneaky works at play that might make you reconsider that classic Italian-American dish, stuffed shells.

The imposter of pasta dinner specials

Don't get us wrong here, as we would never advise you to give up stuffed pasta shells. Who could deny these carb-heavy delights on occasion, after all? We just recommend that you think twice before ordering them when they're on "sale." 

What's the big deal? Apparently, these specials are in actuality not so special at all! Turns out most restaurants use these pasta shell specials to fill them with unused ingredients. According to Italian-born chef Raffaele Dall'Erta, who spoke to Insider, stuffed pasta shells could be hiding a bevy of unwanted bits from the back of the kitchen fridge. "Stuffed shells are sometimes a 'special' on the menu because restaurants will use leftover ingredients to fill the shells," said Dall'Erta. They might also be using bland pre-filled shells, with no professional culinary touch from a chef. Yikes!

So, as tempting as the money-saving specials might be, we recommend you take into consideration all your new-found knowledge before you dive into the stuffed shells. Less scrupulous or simply less expensive Italian restaurants might also be scamming you with less than authentic ingredients, from truffles to cheeses. In this case, you may want to pay full price to help ensure you're getting the freshest stuffed shell filling and take a closer look at what it means when an Italian restaurant is truly authentic.