Of all the baked pasta dishes, stuffed shells are beloved for good reason: The fluffy ricotta filling, punchy tomato sauce, melted cheese and oversize noodles creates the ultimate comfort food, and the make-ahead aspect is equally compelling.
The tomato sauce can be made and refrigerated five days ahead, or you can save time by swapping in 3 cups of your favorite store-bought marinara.
The shells can be assembled a few hours ahead, then baked from the refrigerator an hour before it’s time to eat. While some versions add frozen spinach, herbs or lemon, you really don’t need anything beyond the basics; this classic version is pure comfort.
By Ali Slagle, New York Times
- 1 pound fresh ricotta (about 2 cups)
- 10 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2-1/2 cups), divided
- 5-1/2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups), divided
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 12 ounces jumbo shells
- >> Sauce:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree
>> To make the sauce: In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until paste turns one shade darker, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato puree, season with salt, then bring to a simmer. Cover halfway to reduce splattering, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
>> To make filling: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta with 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup Parmesan and egg yolks. Grate garlic directly into the bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then set aside.
Add the shells to the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente (about 2 minutes less than the minimum time listed on the package, as the shells will continue to cook in the oven).
Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water to cool. Count out 24 shells. (You will have more shells than will fit in the dish; that’s insurance in case any rip. Reserve extras for another use.)
Stir pasta water into the sauce, then add half the sauce to a 3-quart, 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread it in an even layer.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling into each of the shells, placing stuffed shells in the dish as you go. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup Parmesan.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. (If you’d like to brown the cheese, broil for a few minutes.) Let sit 5 minutes, then serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Nutritional information unavailable.