As I write this, I’m sitting on my bed eating my second watermelon this week with the window open. Nothing could be more summery than that. As a self-proclaimed lover of autumn and eternal homebody, summer really gets me out of my more tired habits and into some new ones. Running outside is my new norm, and for the first time in my life I have a tan (kinda sorta). But it’s something! I even went to the downtown farmers market on a Saturday, a place that even the bravest don’t visit due to the traffic. Two fights later about parking and a long walk from the furthest lot, we arrived, and I immediately snatched up the best looking tomatoes. Tomatoes and squash are two things we cook all the time in this house.
I have a couple thoughts on Caprese Salad. First, the proportions are all wrong. Why so much mozzarella?! Second, cold is good, but baked is better, especially when it comes to mozzarella cheese. So my idea was to create Caprese Stuffed Shells–my perfect caprese salad atop a beautiful dish of shells stuffed with sun-dried tomato cream and ricotta. It’s decadent to say the least. Then it’s all baked and you get the perfect cheese pulls like the guy in the picture up top. It’s magical. So let’s get started on these Caprese Stuffed Shells.
First, we’ll boil our shells for just nine minutes. This gets the perfect al dente texture. To make the sun-dried tomato pesto cream, we throw a bunch of stuff into an 8 cup food processor. Add your parsley stems and all, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parmesan, cherry tomatoes and just one tablespoon of oil. Then give it a couple pulses. Start the food processor on high while you drizzle in the remaining oil through the vent, and then drizzle in the cream. Then taste for salt and pepper. Add one cup of this mixture to the ricotta cheese and stir together.
At the bottom of your 9 x 14 baking dish add a quarter cup of the sun-dried tomato pesto. Then stuff your shells with the ricotta sun-dried tomato pesto mixture, lining them up in the pan, seam side up until the dish is full. Drizzle on a remaining half cup of the sun-dried tomato pesto on top of the shells. Then top with tomato slices. Tear your mozzarella all over the top of the dish and add your remaining parmesan. Drizzle with oil lightly and bake at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes until browned and bubbly. See the full recipe below.
- 12 oz. jumbo shell pasta
- 7 oz. jar oil packed sundried tomatoes
- half a bunch of fresh Italian parsley, stems removed
- a handful fresh basil
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
- half a pint cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper
- 30 oz part skim ricotta cheese
- 2 oz. grated parmesan cheese, plus 1 oz. for topping
- 3 large tomatoes
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
- olive oil for drizzling
- Preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil your shell pasta for 9 minutes and drain in a colander. Set aside to cool.
- In an 8 cup food processor, add half a bunch of parsley, 2 oz grated parmesan, the sundried tomatoes without the oil, basil, 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and the cherry tomatoes. Pulse the food processor a few times to break everything up. Then turn the food processor on high and drizzle in the remaining oil through the vent hole. Then, while the food processor is still running, slowly pour in the cream. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed. Then pulse again.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese. Add half the sundried tomato mixture (about 1 cups) and mix together with a spoon.
- In a 9 x 14 inch baking dish, add a quarter cup of the remaining sundried tomato mixture to the bottom of the dish, spreading evenly across the bottom with a spoon. Use your hands to spoon the ricotta tomato mixture into each shell pasta and place, opening side up, in the baking dish until all the shells are gone or the dish is full. Spread a half cup of the remaining sundried tomato pesto all over the tops of the stuffed shells. Keep any remaining sundried tomato pesto in a jar for another time.
- Slice your tomatoes into thin slices and place evenly over the top of the shells. Use your hands to tear the mozzarella all over the top of the tomatoes. Grate the remaining ounce of parmesan over the top of the dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
- Bake for 30 minutes until top is beginning to brown and sauce bubbles. Let it cool for five minutes before serving.