Pesto Stuffed Shells

I’ve been wanting to post this meal for a few weeks, but felt like I needed a break from pasta posts. Over the past few weeks I have branched out with soups, salads, quinoa, and even smoothies recipes. I, however, keep coming back to the good stuff. I can’t help it. I absolutely love pasta! I always have. As a little kid I always requested “skabeti” for dinner. I could never handle a low carb diet, or go paleo.  I made these pesto stuffed shells on a Sunday evening, and they looked so cute on the plate. The pesto mixed into the ricotta filling took the flavor up a notch. Ricotta stuffed shells topped with a simple tomato sauce and a little cheese created a blogable dish. 

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

1 15-ounce container low fat ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella
5 tablespoons store bought pesto

25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells

Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F.

To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, 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 (you don’t want to burn your tongue)…If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.

To make the filling, combine the ricotta, pesto egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella. 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 – see photo.

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. Serve hot.

Serves 4 – 6.

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