Ricotta- and Arugula-Stuffed Shells with Amatriciana Sauce
Here, stuffed shells are enlivened with the addition of savory and colorful sautéed arugula. The amatriciana sauce is a slightly spicy version of marinara sauce with the addition of guanciale and crushed red pepper flakes. Guanciale is cured pork cheek and can be found in many butcher shops, but you can also substitute pancetta or unsmoked bacon if you like.
For the amatriciana sauce:
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 4 oz. (125 g) guanciale, pancetta or unsmoked bacon, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 can (28 oz./875 g) crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lb. (500 g) jumbo shells
- 2 tsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 5 oz. (155 g) arugula leaves, tough stems removed
- 3 cups (24 oz./750 g) whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 6 Tbs. (1 1/2 oz./45 g) Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
To make the sauce, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Cook the guanciale, stirring occasionally, until it is crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the garlic softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Use immediately, or let the sauce cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells and cook for about 2 minutes less than the package directions call for. Drain well and arrange in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Set aside.
Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the arugula and sauté until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, chop finely. Set aside.
In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, 4 Tbs. (1 oz./30 g) of the Parmesan and the egg. Stir in the chopped arugula and season with salt and pepper.
Spread 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish. Using a teaspoon, fill each shell with the ricotta mixture. The shells should be full but not bursting open. Place each filled shell, open side up, in the sauce in the baking dish. Cover the shells with the remaining 1 1⁄4 cups (10 fl. oz./ 315 ml) sauce and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 Tbs. Parmesan.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Pasta Night, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2014)