Stuffed Shells

Ah! It had been too long. Over a week since I’ve cooked? Terrible! So, I’m starting out simple. A little indulgent, but sooooo delicious. I love stuffed shells. Oh, the cheesy goodness. And this recipe is particularly lovely with the additional of lemon zest. It adds a brightness that really lightens the dish up. And since our chives had gone a little soft over the long weekend, I mixed it up with a bit of parsley and basil instead. Really, just about any fresh herbs would work well.

Stuffed Shells
via 101 cookbooks

zest of one lemon
25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells

Sauce:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes

Filling:
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 bunch of chives, minced (basil, parsley or a blend)

Oil a 13 x 9-inch / 33 x 23-cm baking pan, or equivalent, and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle.
To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant – you don’t want the garlic to brown. Now stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste. If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.
To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.
Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands.
Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.

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