Heart-Stuffed Shells in a Ricotta Sauce

Today is no ordinary day, because today is National Artichoke Hearts Day! And this heart-stuffed version of stuffed shells seemed like the perfect choice. That is until I had to go to two different grocery stores to find the jumbo-sized shells. Little did I know that these pasta shells are a hot commodity. But I cannot really proclaim otherwise since this turned out wonderfully. Good thing it only uses half the box because I might need to make this again sooner than later.

I changed a couple things from the original. Used Fontina instead of Romano, 2% milk instead of whole, jar of hearts instead of frozen, and an extra glove of garlic. You know, cause I love garlic. Pretty much everything else was substituted based on current availability in my kitchen or what I could find at the store… Have I ever mentioned that I miss Wegmans?

It is also Wednesday, which means it’s the mighty combo of Core & Spin class tonight. Oh how I dread yet love it at the same time.

Ingredients:

SHELLS & FILLING

18 jumbo pasta shells

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion, chopped small

12 oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup finely grated Fontina cheese

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (plus more for garnish)

2 large egg yolks

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

SAUCE

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups 2% milk

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cook the shells: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook shells according to package directions. Drain and toss with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, to keep them from sticking.
  2. Make the filling: Melt butter in a heavy 12-inch skillet and cook it until it turns nutty and brown, stirring occasionally to keep the solids moving on the bottom of the pan. Once it is a nice nutty brown, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, then the onions and cook them until they are lightly brown and caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and cook them until they are softened a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook it until it completely disappears.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly, before transferring it to the bowl of a food processor. Add both cheeses, the yolks, lemon juice, salt and black pepper and pulse in the food processor until well chopped but still retains a little texture.
  4. Make the sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (or the wiped out pot you made the artichoke filling in, if you’re into spending less time scrubbing pots) over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the flour all at once and whisk it until smooth.
  5. Add the milk, a small glug at a time, whisking constantly so no lumps form. Once the mixture has reached a batter-like consistency, you can begin adding the milk in larger pours at a time, whisking the whole time. Once all the milk is added, add the garlic and bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, it will immediately begin to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for two to three minutes before stirring in the ricotta, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste.
  6. Assemble the dish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour two cups of sauce (you’ll have about 2-1/2 cups total) into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Scoop one tablespoon of artichoke filling inside each cooked shell; this will fill it but still allow the sides to close and neatly hold the filling intact while it bakes. Nest each pasta shell in the sauce, seam up. Dollop a spoonful of the remaining sauce over each shell. Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake it for a final 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if using, and serve immediately.

Source: Adapted slightly from Deb Perelman on Bon App├ętit

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