Ah, the go-to recipe. It is a thing of beauty and wonder. Held in such esteem that it often makes the requested for dinner list. Actually…guffed gells are requested, but I know what my little man wants.
These shells are, I admit it, quite good. I’m not usually a fan of Italian food, but these have won me over. The filling is easy and while it is not a one dish meal, it is very tasty and perfect on nights where I know I’ll have a little extra time or energy. I adapted the recipe slightly to remove the lemon. If you like the additional punch of flavor that lemon adds, follow the optional notes as well. Enjoy!
zest of one lemon, optional
For the sauce:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
scant (slightly less than) 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / ~5 oz grated mozzarella
1 bunch of chives, minced, optional
25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells
Oil a 13 x 9-inch / 33 x 23-cm baking pan, or equivalent, and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it, if using. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle.
To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute approximately 45 seconds until everything is fragrant. Now stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and season to taste. Let cool.
To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest if using, and 3/4 of the chives if using. Set aside.
Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands.
Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives, if used, and serve hot.