(CBS News) The following recipe comes courtesy of chef Lidia Bastianich.
A pound of "jumbo" pasta shells contains about 36. This recipe makes enough filling for about 30 shells, so it's likely you'll have a few extras, which may come in handy as some shells break in the box or during cooking. Be sure to cook the shells very al dente before filling them, or they well tear when you try to stuff them.
Individual servings of stuffed shells make an impressive presentation. If you have enough individual baking dishes, divide the shells and sauce among them, then top with cheese, keeping in mind that you might need a little more cheese to top individual servings than is called for in the recipe.
(Conchiglie Ripiene Al Forno)
Yield: 6 servings (about 5 stuffed shells for each serving)
pounds fresh ricotta or packaged whole milk ricotta
One 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 fresh basil leaves
1 pound jumbo pasta shells
Place the ricotta in a cheesecloth‑lined sieve and set the sieve over a bowl. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours up to one day. Discard the liquid in the bowl.
Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. (If you don't have a food mill, seed the tomatoes and place them in a food processor. Process the tomatoes, using quick on/off pulses, until they are finely ground. Don't over-process or you'll incorporate air into the tomatoes and change their texture and color.) Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Slice half the mozzarella thin and cut the remaining half into ¼-inch cubes. Turn the drained ricotta into a mixing bowl. Mix 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. Lower the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully pour them 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 simmering. Cook until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir the basil into the sauce a few minutes before it is done.
Meanwhile, stir the shells into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, but still quite firm, about 7 minutes. Fish the shells out the water with a large skimmer and carefully lower them into a bowl of cold water. Drain them carefully.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 15 x 10-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 over-stuffed. Nestle the shells next to each other 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.
For more info:
- Lidia's Italy
- "Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf); Also available in eBook format
See more recipes from "Sunday Morning"'s 2013 "Food Issue"
for more features.