A few years back, my youngest sister suggested making this dish for my father when we were at his house for dinner. As he’s now back to bachelor-style fare, with my mother being ill, he doesn’t have pasta very often. For some reason, he won’t fix it for himself, which we all find odd, as it is one of those things that we all learned how to cook early on in learning how to feed ourselves. With these Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce, we also discovered that we had a niece/nephew-friendly dish as well, so it is in the rotation of possible menu selections for their visits.
I offer it here as a second-to-last Lenten Friday dinner option, just as you can’t face one more tuna dish or going out for pizza again on a Friday night. Throw in a salad and garlic bread to make it complete – red and white checked tablecloth optional. Candle in Chianti bottle is even more optional. This is also a good way to use up some of the Easy Tomato Sauce if you have any of that still on hand. I made half a batch of the Ricotta-Stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce for the purposes of this demo, as you’ll see from the photos. The leftovers are great, too, but I didn’t want to have them around for a week. To feel the hungry hoard at my folks’ house, we double the recipe.
Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells with Savory Tomato Sauce
Prep-time: 1 hour (with cooking)
Serving size: 4-6 shells per adult
Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells:
24 Jumbo Pasta Shells
1 15-oz. container Ricotta Cheese
1 1/2 c. Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, ground
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
2 Tbsp. Parsley, curly-style Italian, fresh, chopped
2 Egg Yolks (save whites for another use)
Savory Tomato Sauce:
1 tsp. Salt
1 c. Onion, cut into small dice
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 1/2 c. Easy Tomato Sauce
3/4 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 Tbsp. Parsley, curly-style Italian, fresh, chopped
Put a large pan of water on the stove to boil. When the water has reached a rollicking, bubbling state, add the salt and let the water come to the boil again. While the pasta water is boiling and the shells are cooking, make the Spicy Tomato Sauce.
Add Easy Tomato Sauce and stir to incorporate. [If the pasta water is boiling at this point, add the shells and then return to making the sauce.]
Add the dried oregano and chopped, fresh Italian parsley and stir into the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Leave to continue cooking over low heat while preparing the Ricotta-stuffed Pasta Shells.
The mixture will have a slight yellow-ish hue from the egg yolk, and the ricotta mixture will be creamy. It was about this point that I realized that I had just made the classic filling for cheese ravioli, as I’d learned in my pasta making course last year.
Continue filling the shells with cheese and putting them in the pan, lined up beside each other. When we make this for our family, it becomes a team effort, with my sister recruiting me and her boyfriend to help her stuff the shells, to get that double batch of them in the oven for dinner.
Serve the shells immediately and bask in everyone’s contented smiles. The tangy-tart sauce with a hint of heat (but not overly-spicy) helps balance the rich, creamy cheesiness of the stuffed shells. This recipe has definitely become a crowd-pleaser around my folks’ house.