One-Pot Crispy Gnocchi with Burst Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

This is a variation of one of my favorite quick dishes that also uses store-bought gnocchi as a shortcut. It is less spicy which pleased my husband. 😉 The cheesiness of this version definitely made it a crowd-pleaser.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. It was the perfect dinner to make and serve after making cupcakes all afternoon with my daughter. Fast and fabulous.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 (12- to 18-ounce) packages shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups (2 pints) small tomatoes, such as cherry, grape or Sungold
  • 4 to 6 T thinly sliced (chiffonade) or torn basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 8 to 9 ounces (8 slices) fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  1. Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
  2. In a large (12-inch) skillet on the stovetop, heat enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  3. Add half the gnocchi to the pan, breaking up any that are stuck together. Cover with a lid or baking sheet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi and olive oil.
  5. Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium-high, stirring often, until golden-brown and toasty, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper, reducing the heat slightly if necessary to avoid scorching.
  7. Add the tomatoes and 3 tablespoons water and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Smash the tomatoes as they burst to help them along.
  8. Add the seared gnocchi and basil, stir to coat, then shake into an even layer.
  9. Top with the mozzarella and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  10. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes. (I set my oven to 500 degrees Broil+Max.)
  11. Top with more basil, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper as desired.

Venetian Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)

In Venice, this classic dish is traditionally served on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day. This version was adapted from Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Piombino Dese, outside of Venice, Italy, via 177MilkStreet.com, contributed by Diane Unger.

The recipe is similar to risotto in its cooking method and because it incorporates arborio rice, but this dish is much more fluid and soupy. It is definitely for pea lovers! Whole peas and puréed peas are mixed into the creamy rice. I loved the vibrant, beautiful color of the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, half thinly sliced and half finely chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup frozen, 1 cup thawed & at room temperature)
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed or finely chopped (I used uncured pancetta)
  • 4 T salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided
  • 1 cup arborio or vialone nano rice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. In a medium pot, combine the carrot, sliced onion (reserve the chopped onion), celery, fennel seeds, stock (or broth), and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables have softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining as much of the liquid as possible. (It’s okay if some of the fennel seeds remain in the pot.) (I used a Vitamix.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock to the blender along with the parsley and the still-frozen peas. (The frozen peas cool the mixture so that it remains a brilliant green.) Leave the remaining stock in the pot, covered, so that it remains warm. (I kept the pot over low heat.)
  4. Blend the solids, parsley, frozen peas, and cup of stock until the mixture is completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside. (You should have about 3 cups of purée.)
  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved chopped onion, pancetta, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pancetta are lightly browned and the pancetta fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. (I used a low, wide, enameled cast iron pot.)
  6. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1 cup of warm stock. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle in additional stock to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup at a time, and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes per addition.
  9. Repeat the addition of stock, about 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
  11. Add the thawed, room temperature peas and the reserved purée; stir into heated through, about 1 minute.
  12. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; stir until melted.
  13. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve sprinkled with additional grated Parmesan, as desired.

Garlic Knots

We have pizza night once a week- usually on Sundays. We vary the type and toppings, of course. 🙂 During the initial lockdown, we started experimenting with many variations of garlic knots to eat with our special pizza. I now realize that pizzeria versions are soaked in an incredible amount of oil.  I opted for a drizzle before and after baking instead.

We made them with different doughs and determined that a 24-hour pizza dough (one of my favorites) resulted in our preferred garlic knots. We also attempted to make them with sourdough pizza dough (of course!) but they were too puffy. We experimented with different baking temperatures as well. I found that a higher oven temperature and shorter baking time resulted in more tender garlic knots.

This recipe makes two batches of eight knots; I froze half and thawed them in the refrigerator prior to baking with excellent results. Great.

Yield: about 16 garlic knots

For the Dough:

  • 153 grams (1 1/4 cups) 00 Flour
  • 153 grams (1 1/4 cups) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
  • 8 grams (scant 2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 2 grams (scant 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast OR 4 grams (scant 1 teaspoon) fresh yeast
  • 4 grams (scant 1 teaspoon) good olive oil
  • 202 grams (1 cup minus 1 T) lukewarm water

For the Topping: (make half if freezing half of the garlic knots)

  • 5 to 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 pinches coarse salt
  • dash of red pepper flakes, or more to taste, optional
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

To Serve:

  • marinara sauce, optional
  • minced parsley, for garnish, optional

To Make the Dough (24 to 48-hours in advance):

  1. In a bowl, thoroughly combine the flours and salt; make a well in the center.
  2. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the yeast, olive oil, and lukewarm water.
  3. Pour the wet mixture into the well in the dry mixture and begin mixing the two together with your hands, gradually incorporating the dry into the wet. This process will be more like mixing than kneading.
  4. After about 3 minutes, when the wet and dry are well combined, set the mixture aside and let it rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. This allows time for the flour to absorb the moisture.
  5. Flour your hands and the work surface. Gently but firmly knead the mixture on the work surface for about 3 minutes. Reflour your hands and the surface as necessary. The dough will be nice and sticky, but after a few minutes of kneading it should come together into a smooth mass.
  6. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, shape them gently into balls, and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
  7. Refrigerate the dough for at least 24 and up to 48 hours before using. This process, called proofing, allows for the fermentation that gives the dough structure- which results in a chewy, pliable crust with great flavor.

To Shape the Dough:

  1. Roll each dough ball into an 8-inch log.
  2. Using a knife or bench scraper, cut each log into 8 pieces (approximately 1-inch each and equal in size).
  3. Roll each piece into and 8-inch long rope. (You will have 16 ropes.)(I did this by hand but my kids also used a rolling pin.)
  4. Tie each rope into a knot. (The ends can be tucked underneath or left out.)
  5. Arrange the knots on two aluminum foil-lined baking sheets. (I ultimately preferred aluminum foil over parchment paper because of the high oven temperature.)(At this point some of the garlic knots can be frozen- see note below.)
  6. Lightly cover and let them rest in a warm spot for at least 30 minutes, or up to 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (I used the baking stone setting with a stone placed in the lowest position.)
  8. When the rise time is nearly complete, prepare the topping.

To Prepare the Topping:

  1. Combine the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, if using, in a small skillet.
  2. Cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and reserve.

To Bake & Serve the Garlic Knots:

  1. When the rise time is complete, brush the top of the garlic knots with a little more than half of the garlic-olive oil topping.
  2. Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. Remove from oven and brush with remaining garlic-olive oil topping.
  4. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan and/or parsley, as desired. Serve plain or with marinara sauce for dipping.

Note: Cover and store leftover garlic knots in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Freeze Dough Prior to Baking:  Arrange the shaped knots on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet. Freeze, uncovered, for 1-2 hours. Remove from the freezer. Knots should be frozen and no longer sticky. Place into a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter. Bring to room temperature, arrange on 2 foil-lined baking sheets, cover lightly, and allow to rest/rise in a warm spot for 1 hour before baking as above.

Spinach Manicotti

I have shared my love for manicotti in the past– stemming from wonderful memories of enjoying it with my college roommate’s large Italian family on Easter Sunday.

I have made many versions of spinach manicotti, usually filling store-bought manicotti noodles. Using no-boil lasagna noodles instead was a great “less-hassle” shortcut. They were also chosen to mimic the texture of fresh pasta. It was absolutely true! I will never buy manicotti noodles again. 😉

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I replaced one cup of ricotta cheese with an equivalent amount of chopped, steamed spinach seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg. I also used whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim, part-skim mozzarella instead of whole milk mozzarella, coarse salt instead of table salt, and modified the method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, optional
  • coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

For the Filling & Pasta:

  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (can substitute part-skim ricotta)
  • 4 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parmesan cheese, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
  1. Steam the baby spinach until wilted. (I did this on the stove top.)
  2. Let the spinach cool slightly, then use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop. (You should have about 1 cup.) Season with salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Make the Sauce: Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.
  5. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Make the Filling: Combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
  9. To Assemble: Pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. (I used a pyrex dish.) Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 to 6 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking.
  10. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Do not use paper towels because the noodles may stick. (I used flour sack towels.)
  11. If using the same dish to bake the manicotti, drain the water and dry the dish. (I used a ceramic baking dish to bake the manicotti instead of using the pyrex dish.)
  12. Place the preferred baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  13. Using a large cookie scoop or a soup spoon, spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spinach-cheese filling mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed.
  14. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down.
  15. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered. (It seems like a lot of liquid but it’s necessary for the no-boil noodles to cook properly.)
  16. To Bake: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil.
  17. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element).
  18. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Return to the oven on the adjusted oven rack; bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
  19. Set the oven to broil.
  20. Broil until cheese is lightly brown or spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

Note: The manicotti can be prepared through step 15, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Orecchiette with Sausage & Chard

This is a variation of one of my favorite Italian restaurant dishes, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. It was fast to prepare and really full-flavored- incorporating anchovies, freshly ground fennel seeds, and lots of garlic. Great.

This recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Jeanne Maguire. I substituted jarred fire-roasted red peppers and brine for Peppadew peppers. I used a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausage as well.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (about 6) sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed (I used 2/3 sweet (4) and 1/3 hot sausage (2))
  • 3 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mild Peppadew peppers or fire-roasted red peppers, plus 1 T brine (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 to 10 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth or stock, divided
  • 3 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  1. Remove the stems from the chard leaves and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Soak in a bowl of water, drain, and set aside.
  2. Cut the leaves into 3-inch wide ribbons; wash and drain. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. Drain, return to the pot and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet (with a lid available) over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  6. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small chunks, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 1 T of the drippings from the pan.
  7. Add the anchovies, ground fennel seed, and peppers to the skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  8. Stir in the garlic and chard stems, then cook until the garlic is aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  9. Add 1/4 cup of the stock and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the chard leaves and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the leaves are wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes.
  11. Scrape the chard mixture into the pot with the pasta. (I added the pasta to the pot with the chard instead!)
  12. Add the sausage and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir over medium-low until the pasta is heated through, about 1 minute.
  13. Gradually stir in the Parmesan, then the Peppadew or roasted red pepper brine.
  14. Taste and season with salt. Serve sprinkled with more Parmesan.

Marcella Hazan’s Eggplant Parmesan

WOW. This was amazing. We are battling over the leftovers. 😉

This version of this classic Italian casserole is from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I added garlic and basil to the tomato sauce and modified the proportions. I found it interesting that breading the eggplant is an Americanized method used to prepare this dish. Hazan only coats the salted and dried eggplant slices with flour prior to frying them.

We ate it with pasta on the side but crusty bread would also be wonderful. Cheesy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds eggplant (I used 4 small organic eggplants)
  • coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, optional
  • 28 oz can canned whole imported Italian plum tomatoes with juice (such as San Marzano), crushed by hand or coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo-milk mozzarella (I used cow-milk mozzarella)
  • vegetable oil, for frying (I used canola oil)
  • all-purpose flour spread on a plate or glass pie dish
  • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves plus 1 sprig for the sauce plus chopped leaves for garnish
  • an oven-to-table baking dish, approximately 11 inches by 7 inches or its equivalent (I used a 2-quart baking dish)
  • unsalted butter or cooking oil spray for the pan
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • crusty bread or pasta, for serving, optional (I used 1/2 pound penne)
  1. Cut the green, spiky top off each eggplant and peel it. Cut each eggplant lengthwise into slices about 3/8-inch thick.
  2. Stand one layer of slices upright against the inside of a pasta colander and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Stand another layer of slices against it, sprinkle with salt, and repeat the procedure until you have salted all the eggplant you are working with. Place a deep dish under the colander or place the colander in a large bowl to collect the drippings and let the eggplant steep under salt for 30 minutes or more. (This process is important in order to remove excess moisture from the eggplant.)
  4. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a pot, turn the heat on to medium, add sliced garlic, if using. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add tomatoes (with juice), basil sprig, and salt; stir, and cooking the tomatoes down until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  6. While the sauce is cooking, thinly slice the mozzarella.
  7. Before cooking, pat each slice of eggplant thoroughly dry with paper towels. (I placed all of the eggplant slices in 3 layers (one for each layer of casserole) between slices of paper towels to dry.)
  8. In a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1 to 1 1/2 inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to medium-high to high. (I used 45 to 50 oz of canola oil in a 12-inch sauté pan.)
  9. Working a few slices at a time, with the eggplant thoroughly dried with paper towels, dredge the slices in the flour, coating them on both sides. (Do only a few slices at a time at the moment you are ready to fry them, otherwise the flour coating will become soggy.)
  10. After coating with flour, fry the eggplant, by slipping as many slices into the pan as will fit loosely without overlapping. Cook to a golden brown color on one side, then turn them and do the other side. Do not turn them more than once. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon, tongs, or spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack placed over a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels.
  11. Repeat the procedure until all the eggplant is done. If you find the oil becoming too hot, reduce the heat slightly, but do not add more oil to the pan.
  12. Preheat the oven to 400°F. (I set my oven to convection.)
  13. Wash the basil leaves, and tear each leaf into two or more pieces.
  14. Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter or coat with cooking oil spray.
  15. Put in enough fried eggplant slices to line the bottom of the dish (about 1/3)(the original recipe recommends placing them in a single layer but I used overlapped slices).
  16. Spread some of the cooked tomato over the first layer of eggplant slices (about 1/3), cover with a layer of mozzarella (about 1/2), sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan (about 1/3), distribute a few pieces of basil over it (about 1/2), and top with another layer of fried eggplant (another 1/3).
  17. Repeat the procedure in step 16, ending with a layer of eggplant on top. (3 layers of eggplant with sauce and 2 layers of cheese with basil)
  18. Sprinkle the top layer of eggplant slices with remaining sauce topped with remaining grated Parmesan (about 1/3), and place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven.
  19. Occasionally eggplant Parmesan throws off more liquid as it bakes than you want in the pan. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered eggplant with the back of a spoon, and draw off any excess liquid you may find.
  20. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.
  21. Garnish with additional fresh basil, as desired.

Note: Eggplant Parmesan tastes best shortly after it has been made, but if you must, you can complete it from several hours to 2 or 3 days in advance. Refrigerate under plastic wrap when cool. Warm it up on the top-most rack of a preheated 400°F oven.

Vegetarian Skillet Stuffed Shells

This one-pan, stovetop recipe turns cheesy stuffed pasta into a weeknight dinner. It was a perfect crowd-pleasing dish to serve on a chilly evening. Jarred marinara is used as a shortcut- enhanced with buttery sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes. Great.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I modified the proportions and method, and used dried oregano. I recommend eating it with crusty bread or garlic bread to mop up the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 20 jumbo pasta shells (about 6 to 6.5 oz)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 to 10 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 6 to 9 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 24 to 28 oz jarred marinara sauce (I used 28 oz Rao’s Marinara)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (15 to 16 oz) whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 oz finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
  • fresh parsley or oregano, chopped, for garnish, optional
  • crusty bread or garlic bread for serving, optional
  1. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 9 minutes; drain. Run under cold water to stop the cooking; drain again. (I cooked 22 shells just to be safe but only used 20.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release juices, then are dry again and nicely browned, 5–10 minutes; season with black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add wine, and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Add spinach, stir, cover, and cook until beginning to wilt, 1–2 minutes.
  6. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is completely wilted and most of the liquid is evaporated, 2–4 minutes more. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl; reserve skillet.
  7. Add ricotta, Parmesan, 2 T fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt to mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.
  8. Spoon about 2 T ricotta mixture into each shell. The shell should be filled to capacity but not overstuffed. (I used a cookie scoop to ration the filling.)
  9. Cook garlic and butter in reserved skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, 2–3 minutes.
  10. Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 6–8 minutes.
  11. Nestle stuffed shells into hot sauce in skillet.
  12. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until shells are warmed through, 5–6 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley or oregano. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread, as desired.

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