Stuffed Shells with Marinara

I was immediately drawn to the photo of this dish when I first spotted it in Bon Appétit magazine because it looked incredibly saucy. Maybe my expectations were too high regarding the amount of sauce, but next time I may even make 1.5 times the amount. It’s all about the sauce! 🙂

This classic marinara sauce was described as “the little black dress of Italian-American cooking.” This version, as well as the stuffed shells recipe, is from Palizzi Social Club in Philadelphia, PA, via Bon Appétit. The magazine rated it one of the Best New Restaurants in America in 2017 (#4). Quite an endorsement!

Yield: 8 servings

For the Classic Marinara Sauce:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat oil in a medium heavy pot over medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 8–10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 5 minutes; stir in basil.
  3. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go; season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, about 1 hour.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Note: Sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze up to 3 months.

To Complete the Dish:
  • 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
  • coarse salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups whole-milk fresh ricotta
  • 3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, coarsely grated, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups Classic Marinara Sauce, recipe above, divided
  • dried oregano and olive oil, for serving, as desired
  1. Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente; drain. (I cooked mine for 9 minutes.) Run under cold water to stop the cooking and drain again. Place noodles on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Lightly whisk egg yolks and egg in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, and 1½ cups mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer filling to a large resealable plastic bag.
  6. Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce in a 13×9″ baking dish.
  7. Snip off 1 end of plastic bag and, working one at a time, squeeze filling into shells. I returned them to the rimmed baking sheet to make sure the filling was evenly distributed before placing the shells into the baking dish.
  8. Arranging the filled shells in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
  9. Top with remaining 1½ cups marinara sauce and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
  10. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake shells until sauce is bubbling throughout, 35–40 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.
  11. Carefully move rack to top of oven and heat broiler.
  12. Uncover pasta and broil until lightly browned on top, about 2 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle with oregano and more Parmesan and drizzle with oil, if desired.

Note: Pasta can be baked 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat, covered, at 375°.

One Year Ago: Bucatini with Lemony Carbonara

Two Years Ago: Shepherd’s Chicken Pot Pie

Three Years Ago: Baked Spaghetti & Mozzarella

Four Years Ago: Chicken, Spinach, & Mushroom Casserole with Parmesan Croutons

Five Years Ago:


Cheesy Baked Pasta with Cauliflower & Tomatoes

I have a couple family friendly comfort food pasta casseroles to share. In my house, this type of dish always seems to be the perfect meal in cold weather.

We recently enjoyed this one on a snowy evening- eating by candlelight. I thanked my lucky stars that it had finished baking before our power went out… hence the candlelight! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used diced tomatoes and substituted fontina for provolone. I suppose half and half could be substituted for some (or all) of the heavy cream, but I went for the full indulgence on this (dark and cold) occasion.

  • 1 pound pasta, such as medium shell or tube pasta (I used Capunti pasta)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 4 ounces fontina, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • room-temperature butter or nonstick cooking oil spray (for pan)
  • fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, or parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until about halfway cooked (it needs to be very firm at this stage so that it doesn’t overcook when baked). Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
  3. Combine mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, Parmesan, cream, diced tomatoes, and reserved ½ cup pasta cooking liquid in a large bowl; mix to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cauliflower and cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  5. Grease a 3-qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish with butter or cooking oil spray.
  6. Scrape in pasta mixture and spread out into an even layer.
  7. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake pasta until hot throughout and steaming when foil is lifted, 20–25 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 425◦, preferably on convection.
  9. Continue to bake pasta until sauce is bubbling and top is browned and crunchy in spots, 20–30 minutes.
  10. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, as desired.

Note: Pasta can be assembled 2 days ahead. Cover and chill until ready to bake.

One Year Ago: Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

Two Years Ago: Oscar Night Waffles

Three Years Ago: Chicken Parmesan with Chicken Thighs

Four Years Ago: Chicken, Shrimp, & Clam Jambalaya

Five Years Ago:

Easy Taco Skillet Dinner

I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. 🙂

Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
  • sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
  2. As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
  5. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
  6. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
  8. Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

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Baked Ziti with Cauliflower

Adding vegetables to a baked pasta dish is a wonderful way to slim it down and make it a little bit healthier. My son enjoyed this version as much as our standard super cheesy baked ziti. Not only does this version incorporate cauliflower, it is also upgraded by adding flavor from saffron and anchovies.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. The dish was inspired by another Sicilian cauliflower dish in Clifford A. Wright’s “Cucinia Paradiso.” I modified the recipe by roasting the cauliflower, increasing the garlic and tomatoes, using whole wheat pasta, and incorporating mozzarella cheese. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, leaves and stem trimmed, cut into florets
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ¾ pound ziti or penne rigate (I used whole wheat penne)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On a parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, on convection.
  4. Place the saffron in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons warm water. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, and add the anchovies and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt (remembering that the anchovies will contribute a lot of salt) and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the roasted cauliflower, saffron with its soaking water, and parsley, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta. Cook until just al dente, a few minutes less than you would cook it to serve. It will soften further when it bakes. (I cooked the whole wheat penne noodles for 5 minutes, 2 minutes shy of al dente.) Drain and transfer to a bowl.
  10. Oil a 3-quart baking dish. Toss the pasta with half the cauliflower mixture and half the cheese and spoon into the baking dish.
  11. Combine the remaining cauliflower mixture with half of the remaining cheese and spoon over the pasta.
  12. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil.
  13. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve hot.

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Creamy Ricotta, Fresh Corn & Tomato Baked Ziti

Yes! More tomatoes. They are taking over my kitchen! 🙂 I loved that this dish also incorporated sweet summer corn- and basil.

This is a wonderful summertime version of one of my favorite winter casseroles. Cheesy but not too rich. It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

The recipe was adapted from, contributed by Christine Gallary. I modified the proportions, reduced the pasta cooking time, and used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the sauce. Great.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8
  • cooking spray
  • 1 pound dried penne or ziti pasta
  • 15 to 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 4 to 5 medium), diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (I used kernels from 3 ears of corn)
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F, preferably on convection. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. Add the pasta to the water and cook about 2 minutes shy of al dente, about 8 minutes, or adjust according to package directions.
  4. Meanwhile, place the ricotta cheese, milk, Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until very smooth; set aside. (I used a Vitamix.)
  5. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the tomatoes, corn, and ricotta sauce and stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Transfer to the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.
  7. Bake until bubbling around the edges, 30 minutes. Uncover and stir to evenly coat with sauce.
  8. Taste and season with salt as needed. Sprinkle with the basil. Serve.

Note: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Anchovy Butter

My husband waters a friends’ tomato plants for one week every summer while they are on vacation. I really look forward to it because we get to eat all of the ripe specimens. 🙂

This dish was a spectacular way to use our giant load of vine-ripened tomatoes. The stick of butter in the sauce made it restaurant-esque. 😉 Rich and absolutely fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alison Roman. I doubled the recipe, increased the garlic, and used whole wheat spaghetti. The whole wheat pasta added a wonderful bite to the finished dish. I also omitted incorporating pasta water into the sauce because the consistency was perfect without it. I did save it for re-heating the leftovers.

Yield: 8 servings
  • 16 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 pounds medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped tender herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, and/or chives), as desired
  1. Cook spaghetti; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Cook anchovies and garlic, stirring often, until anchovies are broken down and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until falling apart, 8–10 minutes.
  5. Toss in pasta; cook until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Incorporate pasta water to achieve desired sauce consistency.
  6. Toss in herbs, for garnish, as desired.

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Sam Sifton’s Middle-School Tacos

We are counting down the days until the end of my son’s elementary school career. 😦 His 6th grade Graduation- a.k.a. “Moving Up” ceremony- is next Tuesday. So… it’s the perfect time to share this recipe for a popular Middle-School lunch! I’m getting him ready for his next chapter. ❤

The recipe for these “Middle-School ‘Gringo’ Tacos” was featured in a New York Times article titled “The Case for Hard Shell Tacos,” contributed by Sam Sifton. They were a wonderful upgrade from a taco kit. 🙂 I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, decreased the chile powder and red pepper flakes, and doubled the garlic. We topped them with grated cheeses, sour cream, guacamole, shredded iceberg lettuce, and chopped grape tomatoes. I served them with refried beans on the side as well. Great.

Of course, my kids absolutely loved them! Then they informed me that their school lunch tacos are served in soft tortillas. Funny. Maybe that’s an elementary school thing? We’ll see! 😉

Time: 30 minutes

For the Meat Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola, peanut or grapeseed
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1-2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute hot or sweet paprika)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock or beef broth, low-sodium if store-bought

For Serving:

  • 12-18 hard taco shells
  • refried beans, optional

Topping Suggestions:

  • grated cheese (I used both cheddar and Monterey Jack)
  • sliced jalapeños
  • chopped tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • lime wedges

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the onion, and cook until softened and starting to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so to soften, and then the ground meat. Cook until it starts to brown, stirring and chopping with a spoon to break up the meat, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Pour off excess fat, leaving only a tablespoon or two in the pan.
  4. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cornstarch, paprika and red-pepper flakes, and stir to combine.
  5. Add the stock or broth, stir, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. As sauce cooks, place taco shells (on a taco rack, if possible) on a sheet pan, and toast in oven until they are crisp and smell nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Serve a few tablespoons of meat in each taco, along with whatever toppings you like.
  8. Serve with refried beans on the side, if desired.

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