Baked Cheese-Stuffed Shells
- ACTIVE: 1 HR
- TOTAL TIME: 2 HRS 30 MIN
- SERVINGS: 12
Pasta shells, stuffed with greens and creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheeses then baked with more mozzarella on top, was one of Maria Helm Sinskey's most beloved childhood dishes. It also makes a satisfying main course for any vegetarians in the crowd.
- Two 12-ounce boxes large shells
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- One 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach or Swiss chard, thawed and squeezed dry
- 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese (4 cups)
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Spicy Tomato Sauce
- 1/2 cup pitted, sliced kalamata olives
- In a very large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta shells until al dente; drain well. Rinse under cold water and pat dry thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until softened and starting to brown, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool. Add the ricotta and half each of the mozzarella and Parmesan to the spinach. Stir in the parsley and nutmeg and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the beaten egg.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the Spicy Tomato Sauce in each of two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes. Stuff each pasta shell with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta filling. Arrange the stuffed shells in neat rows in the prepared baking dishes. Spoon 2 cups of the Spicy Tomato Sauce over the shells in each dish. Sprinkle the olives and the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan on top of the pasta and bake for about 50 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve the baked shells with the remaining tomato sauce on the side.
The cherry, berry and black pepper flavors of Sangiovese work well with the baked pasta and all that cheese.