Monday, November 16, 2009

Satisfy Your Italian Craving

I am sharing another one of my favorite recipes with you. Ever since I saw Giada make this dish on her show, Everyday Italian, I had to try it. I did try it and my husband and I both fell in love with this dish. I have been making it for years. Don't let the ingredients scare you away. They all come together so nicely.

Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Serves: 4-6


1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound thick-cut pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch cubes - can sub bacon or ham
2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed, drained - I used 1 package
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta - can sub low-fat ricotta
1 cup grated asiago cheese - can use an Italian cheese blend
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg - can omit

(Instead of this sauce, I use regular pasta sauce)
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cream
2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the Shells:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
2. Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly golden, about 5-10 minutes (similar to cooking bacon). Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
4. Stuff the shells with about 1-2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the Sauce:
(Instead of this sauce, I use about 2 cups of regular pasta sauce. The point of having a sauce on top is to prevent the shells from drying out)
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
4 .Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved.

1. Pour the sauce over the shells.
2. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese.
3. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Shells with the buttery, cheesy sauce
Picture courtesy of Food Network

Shells with pasta sauce
Picture courtesy of me

Recipe courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis

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