Here’s another perfect weekday dinner that comes together in about an hour. And if you make a big enough pan, you’ll have enough leftovers for another night. The creamy Fontina cheese is a nice change from the traditional Mozzarella, and mixing the half-and-half into the sauce adds another layer of depth and richness in flavor.
It’s also a perfect meal for vegetarians, much to the chagrin of my daughter. Halfway through our dinner, she asked me, “This is really good, Mom. What kind of meat is stuffed inside the pasta?” When I told her there was no meat, just carrots, fennel, onion, garlic and radicchio, she paused, thought about that for a moment and then kept eating.
That’s a success in my book!
2 jars marinara sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups reduced-fat ricotta cheese
2 cups Fontina cheese, grated
1 cup low-fat half-and-half
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 head of radicchio, finely chopped
1 box of pasta shells
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1) Cook the pasta shells according to package directions for ‘al dente’ texture. Then rinse the noodles in cold water and lay them out in a single layer on a piece of wax paper to prevent them from sticking together.
2) In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.
3) Add the garlic, onion, fennel, carrot, and radicchio and sauté until the vegetables are soft, and all liquid has evaporated. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool.
4) In a large mixing bowl, combine the marinara with the half-and-half.
5) Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
6) Transfer the cooled vegetables to another mixing bowl and stir in the parsley, eggs, ricotta cheese, half of the Fontina cheese, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
7) Ladle one cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish and coat the entire bottom of the pan with the sauce.
8) Gently spoon the vegetable mixture into each pasta shell, and align each filled shell in the bottom of the baking dish as close together as possible, so they are all nestled tightly together when you’re done.
9) Ladle the pasta sauce over the shells until they are completely covered and then sprinkle the remaining Fontina cheese on top.
10) Bake the pasta uncovered for 30 – 35 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has melted.
11) Remove the pan from the oven and allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before serving.