Monday, November 14, 2011

Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Herbs

It's funny to me that before Thursday I had never attempted to make stuffed shells.  I love Italian food so much (who doesn't?) and make a lot of pasta, risotto, and lasagna.  Maybe stuffed shells never occurred to me because they are usually on the heavier side; I was happy that this recipe turned out much lighter than the traditional version.  The lemon zest gives an interesting, bright, and fresh flavor, and the addition of fresh herbs really makes this dish taste special.  The homemade tomato sauce couldn't be easier and is so much better than using a premade marinara sauce (don't get me wrong - that's a pantry staple of mine, but I'm glad I had the time to make my own this go round).  Heidi Swanson can do no wrong; if you're not reading her blog you must add it to your list.

The part I love about this recipe is Heidi's encouragement to play around with the ricotta filling - her recipe includes chives but she urges you to add different herbs, olives, vegetables, etc.  You could even add ground beef, turkey, or sausage to this recipe if you'd like.  I used chives and fresh basil, because basil makes everything taste better!

Lindsay came over and enjoyed this meal with John and me.  Served with a simple spinach salad and French bread.  And lots of red wine!  We had an awesome night that ended up in usual fashion with us all cracking up over random stuff.  So glad that I've got her in my life!!

Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Herbs
Recipe Source: slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

Lemon zest

For the sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

For the filling:
1 15 ounce container reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 bunch chives, minced
1/2 cup chopped basil

3/4 box jumbo shells

Prepare a casserole dish with cooking spray, and add zest of 1/2 lemon.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Prepare the sauce by mixing the olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic cloves in a cold sauce pan.  Heat on medium high and cook for about a minute, only until fragrant.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes and remove from heat.

To make the filling, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, salt, and mozzarella in a mixing bowl.  Add the 2/3 of the chopped herbs and combine.  Set aside the remaining herbs to top the dish when it's done cooking.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Remove and drain, and let sit until it's cool enough to handle.  Add about 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.  Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture, and place in a single layer in the dish.  Pour the remaining 2/3 of the sauce over the prepared shells.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, top with remaining herbs, and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.


  1. thanks for the shout out! so much fun with yall. :)

  2. I love to see that you're posting so much! :) Also love stuffed Mom used to make these growing up. Will have to try this!