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Stuffed Shells on Tomato Concasse with Tomato and Parmesan Cream Sauce

Stuffed Shells on Tomato Concasse with Tomato and Parmesan Cream Sauce

There are so many fabulous recipes for stuffed shells. Many are filled with a simple blend of luscious cheese. This recipe takes creamy ricotta, a nutty Fontina, Parmesan and surrounds the cheese with a blend of spicy Italian sausage and savory vegetables. And just for fun, the shells are baked on a bed of tomato concasse – ripe Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil. Finally pour a beautiful tomato sauce over the shells and bake. Then, before serving let’s add a creamy Parmesan cheese sauce.

This dish takes a number of steps and a bit of time to prepare this dish, but don’t be put off by that! The good news, both sauces and the tomato concasse can be made a couple of days ahead and all are very easy to make. Then the day you want to serve, pull together the stuffing, cook the pastas, assemble and bake.

The tomato concasse is a basic rough chop of tomatoes that have been blanched, peeled and seeded, tossed with olive oil, fresh basil and seasoning. Peeling Roma tomatoes is not difficult, takes a few minutes and a great way to use these gorgeous tomatoes. If you’re crunched for time grab canned Roma tomatoes which are already peeled. If you want to know an easy way to peel and seed the tomatoes I’ve included the steps at the bottom of this recipe.

Both the tomato sauce and the Parmesan cream sauce are wonderful sauces with many uses and tomato concasse is also great tossed with hot pasta and a sprinkling of Parmesan. One more thing you might need, a good bottle of Chianti. There’s no wine in the recipe, but it will keep you company while you cook!

Stuffed Shells on Tomato Concasse with Tomato and Parmesan Cream Sauce

For the tomato concasse:

6 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 large can Roma tomatoes, 28 ounces, drained* and diced (*you can add the juice to the tomato sauce)

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon sugar

In a medium bowl toss the chopped tomatoes together with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh basil, kosher salt, black pepper and sugar.

Tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

28 ounces tomato puree

 

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

In a deep skillet or saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the garlic for a 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato puree, fresh basil and kosher salt. Simmer over medium low heat for 20-30 minutes.

For the Parmesan cream sauce:

2 cups heavy cream

½ cup butter

½ cup Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter into the cream.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, kosher salt and pepper.

Keep warm over low heat while the shells bake.

For the stuffing and the shells:

1 pound Italian sausage, mild or spicy to suit your taste

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 scallions, chopped

8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

2 cups Fontina cheese, shredded and divided

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

¼ cup finely ground breadcrumbs

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

18+ large pasta shells

Cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling water, heavily salted. I add a handful of kosher salt to the water; you want the water to taste salty. Cook about 9 minutes or until they are al dente.

Remove the pasta shells from the water, set on a rimmed baking sheet to drain. Note: You’ll have enough stuffing for 17-18 shells. I usually drop in a few extra in the event one or two of the shells tear.

To make the stuffing:

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Crumble the Italian sausage, breaking it up in the skillet along with the chopped sweet onion. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink and the onion is tender.

Add the scallions, the spinach, garlic, kosher salt and pepper. Cook an additional 3 -4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl combine the cooled sausage mixture with 1-1/2 cups of the Fontina cheese, the Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and ricotta cheese. Add additional seasoning if needed.

And now we assemble:

Spread the tomato concasse across the bottom of a baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Spoon the sausage stuffing into each pasta shell and nestle them into the bed of tomatoes. Ladle the tomato sauce across the tops of the pasta shells and in between them; top the shells with the remaining Fontina cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until hot and bubbly. To serve, ladle the Parmesan cream sauce in the bottom of the dish and a little across the tops of the shells. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

If you want to use fresh tomatoes, here’s an easy way to peel them:

Cut an “X” through the skin at the base of the tomato.

Drop them in boiling water for about 1-1/2 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes and place them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes to cool and stop them from continuing to cook.

The skin should peel off the tomato easily.

To seed the tomatoes, cut across the width of the tomato and gently squeeze or scoop to remove the seeds.

Don’t worry about getting every little seed out!



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