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Food Network Favorites: Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

A very good stuffed pasta from Giada De Laurentiis' chapter in Food Network Favorites. The sauce is quite spicy, and the contrast with the creamy ricotta filling is delicious.

If you don't need two dishes of pasta, you can halve the recipe. Don't skimp on the red pepper flakes, which add a lot of flavor to the sauce. If pancetta is unavailable, you can substitute bacon, although the flavor isn't exactly the same.

My only change is to boil the pasta a bit longer than specified in the original recipe. De Laurentiis says to boil it for only 4 to 6 minutes, so that it still has some bite. But when the dish goes into the oven, the pasta doesn't get completely covered by the marinara sauce, and any pieces that are sticking up will be too firm if the pasta is only parcooked for 6 minutes. I've increased the pasta cooking time to 10 minutes, which yielded better results in my tests.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 to 20 minutes
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing baking sheet and dishes
12-oz. box jumbo pasta shells
6 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, diced
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups marinara sauce
2 15-oz. containers whole milk ricotta cheese
1 3/4 cups grated Parmesan
4 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside. Lightly oil two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until tender but still al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta shells and place them on the oiled baking sheet, spreading them out so that they don't stick together, and allow them to cool.

Heat the 2 Tbsp oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes. Add the garlic and sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks, parsley, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Fill each cooked shell with about 2 Tbsp of the cheese mixture. Arrange the shells in the baking dishes. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the mozzarella. Bake in the lower third of the oven until the filling is heated through and the top is lightly golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

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©2005 Colleen Flippo. All rights reserved. Contact the author.