This is the kind of comfort food that I really enjoy cooking. It is the kind of food your Nonna would make on Sunday, and it is both comforting and very tasty.
It takes a little prep time, but I find the end result really satisfying. It’s still amazing to me how such simple ingredients can transform into something so incredibly good. And, they are wonderful the next day, if they last that long.
1 12 oz box of Jumbo Pasta Shells
2 Egg Yolks
1 Package of Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated.
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, grated.
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped.
Freshly grated Nutmeg, just a bit, or a pinch.
1/8 tsp Oregano
3-4 cups Marinara, good quality store bought is fine, but feel free to make your own if you’re inspired.
Begin by boiling water in a large pot, once the water is boiling, salt it generously and add the shells. Give it a soft stir, but don’t disturb the shells too much. Timing is critical here, because if you over cook the shells, you will have a mushy mess.
Follow the package directions and cut the highest time by half and start tasting for doneness at that point. Example, the package of shells I used said 10-13 minutes. I started tasting at 7 minutes. Had I cooked them for even 10 minutes, they would have been too soft. I found 9 minutes was perfect.
When they are cooked very al dente, pour them into a colander and rinse them well with cold water. Separate them with your fingers and continue to rinse until they are cool. As they are rinsed, they will not stick together.
Beat together your two egg yolks and your egg and them fold in the ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella. Add in salt, pepper, parsley and nutmeg. Put this mixture into a gallon freezer bag and twirl the bag to make a piping bag, then cut a 1/2 inch corner off the end to fill the shells.
Put about 1 1/2 cups of you marinara on the bottom of your baking dish and then take each shell and pipe in the ricotta mixture. Squeeze the shells slightly and lay them next to each other in the dish.
When all the shells have been filled, or you are out of room, sprinkle on the oregano add the rest of the marinara and add more Parmesan and or mozzarella cheese. Cover tightly with foil and into a 375F oven for 35-40 minutes. Cook until it is bubbling. Remove from the oven, uncover and let it rest for 5 minutes and serve. Makes 4 hefty portions.
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 clove Garlic, peeled and crushed with side of your knife
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 Onion, peeled and dropped in whole.
1 sprig fresh Basil
Hint: If you want to really make it amazing, finish it off in the pan with a little of the reserved pasta water. Just undercook the pasta by about two minutes. Use a Pyrex measuring cup to dip out about 3/4 cup of the boiling pasta water. set aside. Drain the pasta and add it back to the original pan and add a little bit of marinara and continue cooking on low heat for two minutes adding the pasta water a little bit at a time and finish with cheese.
I am a big fan of home made marinara. However, I find that if something is baked with other ingredients for a long time, the difference between a quality store-bought marinara and homemade is minimal.
1 tsp Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
You can easily take this recipe and make it times four, to have masala paste or gravy left over. It stores well in the fridge or you can freeze it as well.
Note: A dedicated coffee grinder for spices is essential. I’ve had a Krups for 20 years.
1 tsp Salt
Add the onion puree mixture and continue gently cooking until mixture is soft and very slightly browned.
Add in your tomatoes and you now have a masala gravy that can be used to create a multitude of different dishes. You can add any meat, seafood, or as I do, sweet potatoes, potatoes, okra or paneer.