BAKED STUFFED SHELLS

by - 5:56 AM

The whole family loves this recipe, and it is a great dish to make when you have
lots of guests coming for dinner. Once you’ve stuffed the shells and set them in the
baking dish, the rest is easy. The delicious aroma will fill the house while your
guests are having drinks, and the shells will arrive bubbling hot to the table. Let’s
face it, everyone loves baked pasta—the chef and the guests.
SERVES 6 (ABOUT 5 STUFFED SHELLS PER PERSON)
1½ pounds whole-milk ricotta
One 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
⅓ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
10 fresh basil leaves
1 pound jumbo pasta shells
Place the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined sieve, and set the sieve over a bowl, allowing
any liquid to drip out. Discard the liquid in the bowl.
Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disk. (If you don’t have a
food mill, place them in a food processor, using quick on/off pulses until finely ground.
Don’t overprocess, or you’ll incorporate air into the tomatoes and change their texture
and color.) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta.
Slice half the mozzarella thin, and cut the remaining half into ¼-inch cubes. Turn the
drained ricotta into a mixing bowl, and stir in the mozzarella cubes, grated cheese, and
parsley. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Beat the egg well, and stir it into
the ricotta mixture.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Scatter the garlic over the oil,
and cook, shaking the pan, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour the
tomatoes into the skillet. Add the crushed red pepper, and season lightly with salt. Bring
the sauce to a quick boil, then adjust the heat to keep it simmering. Cook until the sauce
is lightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir the basil into the sauce a few minutes before
it is done.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Stir the shells into the boiling salted water, and cook, semi-covered, stirring
occasionally, until slightly firmer than al dente, about 7 minutes. Fish the shells out of
the water with a large skimmer, and carefully lower them into a bowl of cold water. Let
cool, then drain carefully.
Line the bottom of a 10-by-15-inch baking dish with about ¾ cup of the tomato sauce.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture into each shell—the shell should be
filled to capacity, but not overstuffed. Nestle the shells next to one another in the baking
dish as you fill them. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, coating each one.
Arrange the slices of mozzarella in an even layer over the shells. Bake until the
mozzarella is browned and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Remove, and let stand 5
minutes before serving.

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