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:

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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:

Soft-Baked Funfetti Cookies

While I’m sharing kid-friendly treats loaded with colorful sprinkles, it seems like the perfect time to post these funfetti cookies! 🙂 I made these for a special annual lunch that I have with friends from my former job. I miss them. ❤  All of our kids have known each other since they were babies- it is also wonderful to get them all together at least a few times a year.

This recipe was adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I doubled the recipe and reduced the baking time. They were a big hit. 🙂

Yield: 42 cookies

  • 1 cup (230 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (380 g) spoon & leveled all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (80 g) sprinkles, plus more for sprinkle on top before baking
  1. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the softened butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  4. With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 different parts. The dough is quite thick and you may have to stir the rest by hand.
  5. Once combined, fold in 1 cup sprinkles.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Make sure the balls are taller, rather than wide. Add a few more sprinkles on top of each ball dough.
  7. Chill the balls of dough on the cookie sheet for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. This step will prevent spreading in the oven. (I chilled the balls of dough for 22 hours prior to baking.)
  8. Preheat oven to 350F, preferably on convection.
  9. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mats.
  10. Bake chilled cookie dough for 9 to 10 minutes. The cookies will appear undone and very soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes and move to wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies stay soft & fresh for up to 1 week at room temperature. They also freeze well. Cookies may be rolled into balls and frozen up to 3 months to bake at a later date.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti, rigatoni, rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

Chicken Stew with Biscuits or Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits… whatever you want to call it- It’s classic comfort food. This version was the runner-up dish for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year. I suppose we had two Valentine’s day dinners (plus leftovers!). Lots of love in my house. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten, via Barefoot Contessa.com. We ate it with a green salad. I modified the recipe to use rotisserie chicken meat, reduced the butter, and incorporated homemade turkey stock. I also steamed the carrots and heated the stock in the microwave and used a food processor to make the biscuit dough.

I made the stew and biscuit dough a day ahead and refrigerated them separately. The day I was ready to serve the dish, I warmed the stew for 1 hour at room temperature, re-heated in the oven for 30+ minutes, and then topped with the pre-cut raw biscuit dough and continued to bake for approximately one half hour. Perfect.

For the Stew:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (I used Trader Joe’s liquid concentrate chicken broth.)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 carrots, medium-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, optional

For the Biscuits:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.
  3. Steam the diced carrots with 2 tablespoons of water in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  4. In a microwave safe bowl, preferably with a spout, heat the chicken stock in the microwave until hot. Remove and incorporate the concentrated stock. (Alternatively, the stock can be warmed in a separate pot on the stove.)
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used enameled cast iron), melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
  6. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick.
  8. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream.
  9. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley, if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed.
  10. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  13. Add the butter and pulse (or mix on low-speed) until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and pulse (or combine on low-speed) until the dough just comes together. Mix in the parsley, if using.
  14. Dump the dough out on a well-floured piece of parchment-paper. Using your hands, pat out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2-1/2 inch round cutter. Only re-form the dough once.
  15. Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling.
  16. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven.
  17. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

One Year Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Birthday Lasagna

I am partial to lasagna laden with mushrooms and spinach… with plenty of cheese, of course. 🙂

When requesting his birthday menu, my son wanted “regular” lasagna, “you know, with just meat and cheese!” His wish was my command. 🙂 It was delicious!

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart. I used ground turkey and chicken sausage, added red pepper flakes, and increased the amount of garlic. We ate it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. He absolutely loved it. It was even more celebratory for him to eat it with our special “Happy Birthday” fork. 🙂

  • 1/2 sprig basil, (3 tablespoons coarsely chopped)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan, (1 cup finely grated)
  • 14 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella (5 cups grated)
  • 1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (I needed 2 additional sheets.)
  • 28 ounces canned, diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1-2 dashes red pepper flakes, optional, or to taste
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (casings removed) or sun-dried tomato-basil chicken sausage (casings removed)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, salt, and pepper 1 minute.
  3. Add turkey and sausage; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasonings, as necessary.
  6. Coat baking dish with cooking spray or oil; spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  7. Top with a layer of noodles. (I used 6 noodles per layer.)
  8. Next, spread a third of the ricotta, then 1 1/2 cups sauce, on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Repeat these steps 2 more times.
  9. Top with a layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Cover with parchment paper topped with foil; bake 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and parchment; bake 20 minutes more. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Vegetarian Variation: Clean and trim 8 ounces button mushrooms; finely chop in a food processor. Follow the recipe, but in step 2, cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. In step 3, add mushrooms, 1 cup diced zucchini, and 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper instead of turkey and sausage; cook, stirring, until just tender, about 6 minutes. After simmering with the tomatoes and oregano in step 4, stir in 4 cups chopped spinach along with basil.

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