Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

28 May 2013

Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream

baked shells with basil ricotta

What happens when you're 2/3 of the way through making lasagna and you open the pasta box to discover you have only 5 lasagna noodles?

Well, if you're us, you make a lasagna anyway. You just don't use those noodles.

We had a bag of small shells just waiting around in the cabinet. So what was on the menu instead of lasagna? Baked pasta with ricotta cream. It's just like lasagna! Really! The noodles are a slightly different shape, but who cares? Everything else went exactly as planned.

This is a fairly standard vegetarian not-lasagna except for one thing: fresh basil.

You know how you can add a bunch of chopped spinach to the ricotta mixture when making lasagna? Okay. What if you replaced that spinach with basil? Huge handfuls of beautiful fragrant fresh summer basil?

It's pretty amazing. You should try it.

baked shells with basil ricotta and spinach salad

Baked pasta shells with basil ricotta cream

Sauce: Saute a handful of chopped garlic cloves and a diced onion in olive oil until soft and delicious. Season with salt oregano, basil, and red pepper flake. Add a chopped red pepper (and whatever other veg you like) and continue to saute for another five minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add 2 cups of tomato puree or chopped tomatoes in juice and cook together, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is done to your liking. Taste and correct for seasoning and puree with a stick blender as needed.

Cheese: mix 16 oz ricotta (or the closest size container you can find) with 1 egg, a cup or so of grated mozzarella and parmesan, and the chopped leaves of half a bunch of fresh basil.

Pasta: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook 3/4 lb of pasta until al dente. Drain.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the cooked pasta with the sauce. Spread a layer of saucy pasta over the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spoon on a layer of cheese, distributing it as well as possible with clean fingers. Repeat, layering pasta and cheese, until they are both used up, ending with a pasta layer. Top the whole business with a couple big handfuls of grated mozzarella and/or parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until delicious and golden brown on top.

baked shells with basil ricotta

Eat as swiftly and enormously as possible. You'll probably want a salad or something else green on the side. We had spinach.

The leftovers are pretty amazing, especially when rewarmed. Personally, I am ok with eating cold leftover pasta. I think it's pretty good in any form. However, this was miles and miles better when reheated than when left cold. The basil in the ricotta just glows. It's so good.

baked shells with basil ricotta garlic sauteed green beans and zucchini

So I ate the leftovers for two more meals in a row, once with garlic-sauteed green beans and zucchini and once with another salad, and I was well satisfied.

How are you using your fresh summer herbs? Plentifully, I hope.


Monet said...

Yum! I have SO much basil growing right now, and this recipe looks like just what the doctor ordered. Thank you so much for sharing!

Michelle said...

Pasta dishes are like Mexican food--same ingredients in different forms. This looks stunning. Basil in place of spinach is brilliant!

Caz said...

This looks absolutely delicious. I love the idea of using basil too. Real comfort food for summer. :)

Jes said...

Summer herbs, I can't wait!!! Things finally warmed up here while I was away but I'm oh so far behind on the garden. I guess some potted baby basil will have to do :)

Eileen said...

Yes, hooray for basil! Jes, fortunately late May is still a totally acceptable time for planting in VA, right? I only have two little plants and am thinking I should get some more starts this weekend. Who doesn't need more basil?

Tim Vidra said...

This looks gooey and delicious!

Joanne said...

Great save! I seriously want this for dinner tonight!

Marissa | Pinch and Swirl said...

I love your ingenuity! I SO know that feeling of opening up a box of - whatever - only to discover that I don't have enough for the recipe I'm in the middle of preparing.

Looks like you came up with something delicious!

Hannah said...

Oh my, do those photos look luscious or what! It's like all the best parts of lasagne and stuffed shells, without ay of the fussy layering or stuffing.