Oct 28 2010

Sunday is for slow, rich dinners

A few Sundays ago, we were in the mood for a filling, warm, and frankly heavy Sunday dinner. I wanted to be swaddled and soothed by the richness of my dinner, before sitting down to watch the season finale of Mad Men.

Luckily, the November issue of Martha Stewart is full of comforting and filling seasonal recipes for Thanksgiving, breakfast, and every other meal. With a few tweaks, we transformed Lucinda Quinn's stuffed shells recipe into exactly what we were craving. While stuffed shells can be what cafeteria nightmares are made of--especially when the shells are filled with 'mystery' meat--it is possible to make the flavor both layered and nuanced. It's best if you think of the shells as the container for whatever you want to make, similar to how I would approach making a savory pie or galette. The noodles are simply receptacles for whatever you want to put in them, though tomato sauce and cheese seem practically required!

We took liberties with this recipe. It calls for prosciutto, which we eliminated. Actually, even if I were currently eating meat, I would have left out the prosciutto, which seems to be the most overused part of a pig. It's time for magazines, cookbooks, and restaurants to stop integrating prosciutto into their dishes, especially as a topping. I love salty things but I'm tired of seeing recipes and menus inundated with prosciutto: let's put it out to pasture (pun intended).

We added mushrooms to bring a welcome heft and flavor to the stuffed shells; the mushrooms tempered the bitterness of the radicchio perfectly. Ultimately, every bite seemed to include a piece of melted cheese and we couldn't have been happier. This happy feeling lasted until Mad Men ended, of course.

Mushroom Stuffed Shells

Recipe adapted from Lucinda Quinn


1 box jumbo pasta shells

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pint mushrooms (we used button)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

12 ounces fresh ricotta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Salt and pepper

5 cups tomato sauce

Unsalted butter

grated Pecorino cheese


1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta shells for 10 minutes. Drain, and rinse before transferring to a bowl. Drizzle with oil and let cool.

2) Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-4 minutes before adding the radicchio. Cook the radicchio until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook until evaporated. *You may need to add more vinegar to counteract the bitterness of the radicchio: be sure to taste test!

3) Stir in the ricotta and mozzarella; season with salt and pepper.

4) Preheat the oven to 375.

5) Pour 2 cups tomato sauce into the bottom of two 8X12 baking dishes. Divide the shells evenly among the two dishes and stuff them with a heaping tablespoon of the filling. Dot the shells with a little butter.

5) Cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and raise temperature to 450. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 15 more minutes.

6) Garnish with Pecorino cheese.