Every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to stumble upon a new recipe and know instantly that it’ll become part of our weekday dinner repertoire. This light, flavorful baked pasta — shells stuffed with ricotta, fontina, fennel and radicchio — is one of those recipes.
It had been staring at me temptingly, all cheesy and crusty, from the cover of Food & Wine, and by last week I could no longer resist. I sautéed fennel, radicchio and onions in a large pan while boiling up the jumbo shells, and then I stuffed them individually with a mixture of the sautéed veggies, fresh ricotta, shredded fontina cheese, eggs and parsley. While I prefer to make my own quick tomato sauce, you can definitely use your favorite store-bought version. The shells get all cozied up in a baking pan, blanketed with the tomato sauce and a light sprinkling of fontina, and then bake for about 45 minutes.
Instant raves — and I mean RAVES! The veggies add texture and flavor to the delicate cheese, making it filling but not heavy or gooey. Everyone agreed that it tasted fresh and healthy, and one of the boys commented, “It tastes like it came out of an Italian grandmother’s kitchen.” Now that’s quite a compliment!
I doubled the recipe and ended up with a large pan and smaller pan, which the guys reheated and demolished the next day after school. They were a very happy bunch, and this will surely be one recipe that gets added to the rotation on a regular basis. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Ricotta-and-Fontina-Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
From Food & Wine, October 2012
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
- 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 2 medium heads of radicchio (10 ounces total), chopped
- 12 ounces jumbo shells
- 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (1½ cups)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 3 cups jarred tomato sauce
- ½ cup heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes; add water as needed to keep the vegetables from scorching. Add the radicchio and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes, adding water as needed. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Pat the shells dry.
3. Fold the ricotta, 1 cup of the Fontina and the parsley into the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the eggs.
4. In another bowl, mix the marinara sauce with the heavy cream. Pour 1 1/2 cups into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with a slightly rounded tablespoon of the filling and nestle the shells in the sauce as close together as possible. Drizzle 1 cup of the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Fontina.
5. Bake the shells for about 40 minutes, until golden. Let rest for 15 minutes. Warm the remaining sauce and serve on the side.