Preheat the oven to 400°. (I set my oven to convection.)
Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes less than al dente, according to the instructions on the package. (Since it will be baked later, don’t overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.)
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 to 14-inch) skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Season with salt.
Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta.
Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the sauté pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender and add to the bowl.
Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully.
Stir in the Fontina.
Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2–inch rectangular baking dish.
Spoon 12 rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. (I used a cookie scoop.)
Combine the panko, grated Pecorino, minced parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top.
Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.
Note: The dish can be assembled ahead of time. Assemble the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake before serving.
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
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.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pan.)
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.
Reduce heat to medium, add wine, and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add spinach, stir, cover, and cook until beginning to wilt, 1–2 minutes.
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.
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.
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.)
Cook garlic and butter in reserved skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, 2–3 minutes.
Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 6–8 minutes.
Nestle stuffed shells into hot sauce in skillet.
Cover and cook over medium-low heat until shells are warmed through, 5–6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley or oregano. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread, as desired.
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
Heat oil in a medium heavy pot over medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 8–10 minutes.
Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 5 minutes; stir in basil.
Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go; season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick, about 1 hour.
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
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 cups whole-milk fresh ricotta
3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
dried oregano and olive oil, for serving, as desired
Preheat oven to 375°, preferably on convection.
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.
Lightly whisk egg yolks and egg in a large bowl.
Stir in ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, and 1½ cups mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.
Transfer filling to a large resealable plastic bag.
Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce in a 13×9″ baking dish.
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.
Arranging the filled shells in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
Top with remaining 1½ cups marinara sauce and remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
Cover pan tightly with foil and bake shells until sauce is bubbling throughout, 35–40 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.
Carefully move rack to top of oven and heat broiler.
Uncover pasta and broil until lightly browned on top, about 2 minutes.
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°.
So, this dish uses broccoli rabe instead of broccoli- but I’m still including it in my “series.” 🙂 This is a skillet version of one of my favorite classic Italian dishes. It was delightfully cheesy too.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used large garlic cloves and decreased the broiling time to 2 minutes. We ate it with a large green salad. Absolutely delicious!!
1 pound ridged medium pasta shells, or large tube pasta, such as lumaconi or rigatoni
Place racks in center and upper third of oven; preheat to 325, preferably on convection.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, for the pasta. Salt generously.
Grate the Fontina cheese on the large holds of a box grater (you should have about 4½ cups).
Smash the garlic cloves, peel, and coarsely chop.
Pick all sage leaves from stems and set aside about 10. Finely chop remaining leaves (you should have about 1 tablespoon).
Trim tough dried ends from the broccoli rabe, then cut stems into 2″ pieces. Leave leafy ends long.
Heat a deep, large, ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Add ¼ cup oiland swirl to coat.
Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet. Break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until sausage is browned, about 4 minutes. Stir a couple of times and continue to cook, undisturbed again, until sausage is fully cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
Add garlic, chopped sage, and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.
Stir in half-and-half and simmer until sauce is thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Gradually add about two-thirds of cheese, bit by bit, stirring constantly and letting cheese melt completely before adding more, until sauce is smooth and thick, about 3 minutes; season with salt and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes shy of package instructions (8–10 minutes depending on type).
During the last 2 minutes, add all of broccoli rabe to pot with pasta. Drain in a colander and shake several times to remove excess water. Return pasta and broccoli rabe to empty pasta pot.
Add cheesy sausage mixture from skillet to pot with pasta. Stir until pasta and broccoli rabe are coated in sauce, then transfer everything back to skillet.
Cover skillet tightly with foil and bake on center rack until pasta is tender and sauce is bubbling, 30–40 minutes. Let rest a few minutes while you heat broiler.
Remove foil and top with remaining cheese.
Toss sage leaves with remaining 1 T oil in a small bowl and arrange over pasta.
Broil until cheese is browned and bubbling in spots, about 2 to 5 minutes (depending on strength of broiler).
This dish was super cheesy, rich, and delicious. It smelled absolutely wonderful as it baked- the rosemary really added a special layer of seasoning.
This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Dario Barbone and Renato Sardo, a “staff-favorite” recipe. I incorporated my special CSA cauliflower, and substituted orecchiette pasta for large shells and fontina for taleggio cheese. I also modified the cooking method. We ate it with a green salad dressed with mustard vinaigrette.
Yield: Serves 6
1 medium head of cauliflower (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch florets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (leaves from 1 sprig)
1/2 pound fontina or taleggio cheese—rind discarded, cheese cubed
1 pound orecchiette or large shells (such as conchiglioni)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 450°, preferably on convection.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the cauliflower until tender, 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the cauliflower to a colander and let cool slightly. Drain and pat dry; keep the cooking water hot.
Finely chop the garlic, onion and rosemary in a food processor.
In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil.
Add the onion, garlic and rosemary, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 8 minutes.
Add the wine and boil until evaporated.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cream, 1 cup of the Parmigiano and the fontina/taleggio.
Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
Scrape the cauliflower and cheese sauce into the pasta and toss well.
Spread half of the pasta into a 3-quart baking dish and top with 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs.
Top with the remaining pasta, 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs and 1/2 cup of Parmigiano.
Bake the pasta for about 17 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden and crisp. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
MAKE AHEAD: The unbaked assembled pasta dish can be refrigerated overnight. Return the pasta to room temperature before baking.