Sunday, February 14, 2016

FOUR CHEESE STUFFED PASTA SHELLS

This is another classic Italian-American pasta dish. Jumbo shells are usually found in boxes, in your pasta isle of your grocery store. My kids loved this dish growing up. You can also add some fresh chopped spinach to add to the cheese filling, if you wish.


Tomato Sauce
2 T (30 ml) extra-light olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
½ t (2 ml) red pepper flakes 
4 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press or minced
3 cans (28 oz/796 ml) whole peeled Italian tomatoes 
3 T (45 ml) tomato paste
1 T (15 ml) freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
½ cup (125 ml) Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Four Cheese Filling
16 oz (500 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
8 oz (250 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small pieces, saving half for topping shells
½ cup (125 ml) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup (60 ml) minced Italian parsley
2 T (30 ml) minced basil
¼ t (1 ml) grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb (500 g) jumbo pasta shells
chopped fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Grated cheese, for serving

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes for 5 minutes or until translucent.                                 Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and hand-crush them, removing any hard center cores.                                                                                   Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.
To the saucepan add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, and wine.                                                                                                         Season to taste with salt and pepper.                                                                                                                                                                       Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the Four Cheese Filling and set aside.
Next, boil the pasta shells in a large pot of salted water, for about 8 minutes.                                                                                                         Remove the shells, to a bowl with ice cold water, then pour into a colander and let drain.
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) degrees.
Using a tablespoon, spoon a generous amount into each shell and set aside on a platter.                                                                                       When sauce is finished simmering, spoon a ladle or two into the bottom of a baking dish or two baking dishes.                                                           Arrange the shells in the baking dish and add a small piece of mozzarella on top of each.                                                                                       Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes.                                                                                                                                                       Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.
One baking dish can be frozen before baking for another dinner.
Spoon a ladle of tomato sauce into each warm pasta bowl. Add 5 stuffed shells and sprinkle with grated cheese and garnish with basil. 

Serves 4 to 5

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