Marinara sauce for parmesan ricotta stuffed pasta shells

The first time I stuffed a pasta shell I was twenty years old. Thirty years ago –  OK thirty-two and a half years ago – you couldn’t buy ricotta cheese in Saint John. A few ill-informed cook books recommended cottage cheese as an acceptable facsimile but trust me when I say, “gag me with a spoon!”

So what did I use?, you wonder. What no self respecting Italian cook would ever consider; cream cheese. I’m not kidding. Philadelphia Cream Cheese was my ‘go to’ when I couldn’t find ricotta which was always or never depending how you’re reading this sentence…

I had to increase the eggs but other than that the consistency was bang-on and the flavour was outrageously decadent. Now that ricotta is a common siting at the super market, I stick to the classic recipe but if no one was looking…

Parmesan Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
Serves 4-6
Preheat oven 375*F

18 jumbo pasta shells
15 oz container ricotta cheese, full fat
1 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan, to finish
Marinara sauce*

The Steps:

  • Cook pasta shells according to package directions.
  • Drain and rinse well with cold water.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper.
  • Spread half of the Marinara sauce on the bottom of a 13×9 inch baking dish.
  • Spoon the cheese mixture into the pasta shells and place in the baking dish.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of Marinara over each stuffed shell then sprinkle all with ½ cup grated Parmesan.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until nicely browned.

THE LOVE: The simplicity of this dish needs the best Parmesan cheese you can find. Reggiano Parmigiano is the best Parmesan in the world and becoming readily available in most grocery stores. It’s a splurge that you’ll never regret!

click here for the printable recipe

makes 4 cups

2 – 28 ounces cans of best quality diced plum tomatoes in puree
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves coarsely chopped garlic or to taste
¼ cup sliced fresh basil, tightly packed
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley, tightly packed
1 teaspoon sea salt
cracked pepper to taste

The Steps:

  • Place a large skillet over medium high heat
  • Add olive oil and heat…
  • Gently sauté garlic…do not brown
  • Add tomatoes, herbs and seasoning
  • Bring to boil then reduce heat
  • Simmer until thick, stirring often

THE LOVE: When there are this few ingredients in a dish, be sure to use the best quality you can. Dried herbs ain’t gonna cut it! 

click here for the printable recipe

one year ago: penne arrabbiata

two years ago: salty peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies 

Thanks for reading.