Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ricotta and Fontina Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio

I’ve always been a picky eater. When I was little, I could not abide onions in my food especially in spaghetti sauce. It’s probably the primary reason I learned to cook. Spaghetti sauce was one of the very first things I ever made by myself. From there, learning to make lasagna with homemade sauce was an easy jump, and stuffed shells were the same as lasagna only the cheese filling is spooned into the shells instead of being layered between sheets of pasta. So, stuffed shells and I go way back. I’ve been making this dish for years, and I’ve changed up the cheese stuffing at different times. I’ve added chopped herbs or spinach. I’ve even used silken tofu mixed with ricotta. I saw this version of stuffed shells in the October issue of Food and Wine, and this was a twist on the classic I’d never tried. Fennel, onion, and radicchio were sauteed and then added to ricotta with some grated fontina. As a kid, I never would have gone for this combination, but I’m a little less picky in some ways these days.

Oddly, this recipe starts with the instruction to pre-heat the oven. You won’t actually need to do that until you start stuffing the shells. First, you saute thinly sliced fennel and, in my case, minced onion in olive oil and melted butter. I still have an onion phobia and always mince them. Some things never change. Once the fennel is very tender and lightly browned, chopped radicchio is added. The quantities for fennel, onion, and radicchio seemed a bit too large to me. I ended up only using a little over half of the vegetables, and I stored the rest in the freezer for next time. Once the vegetables are sauteed and completely tender, they were left to cool and then added to a mixing bowl with two beaten eggs, some ricotta, grated fontina, and chopped parsley. Meanwhile, water was brought to a boil, and jumbo pasta shells were partially cooked. The shells should be pliable enough to stuff, but not completely cooked through. There’s a homemade marinara sauce recipe included in the article, and I had made the sauce in advance. Whole, canned tomatoes were used along with garlic, tomato paste, and basil, and thankfully, there was no onion. Some of the sauce was spooned into a baking dish, and as each shell was stuffed, it was placed on top of the sauce. More sauce covered the shells, and additional grated fontina was sprinkled on top. The shells were then baked for about 40 minutes.

It’s interesting to taste the radicchio as it sautes and the bitterness wanes. Pairing it with fontina also levels off any remaining hints of bitter flavor. I admit I still have a thing about onions. I like the smell and flavor of onions but have no appreciation for any noticeable chunks of onion in dishes. Hence, I always mince them. I’ve completely changed my mind about every other vegetable though and was thrilled with all the colors, textures, and flavors in this cheese stuffing. Besides, stuffed shells have always been easy to like.


30 comments:

  1. Marvelous! Those stuffed shells look amazing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Ricotta, fontina, fennel and radicchio does not a picky eater make! Defo OGD (ooey, gooey and delicious).

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  3. Mmm, that sound delicious. Love the combination of fennel and radicchio.

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  4. Love this warm baked pasta. I was a picky eater and cooking for myself was one way around it. I'm much more adventurous now, but sometimes that picky side still comes out.

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  5. lovely :) looks so comforting!!!

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  6. So gorgeous. I love stuffed shells, this is such a fancy version. Love it.

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  7. Oh man, that looks so good. My mom always made stuffed shells and I loved them. You, a picky eater? I would never have guessed that. You make so many wonderful things. I hear you on the onion thing. I almost always use half amount of onion that a recipe calls for.

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  8. Such a different preparation for stuffed shells...you dish looks terrific.

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  9. Oh wow, this is full of comfort! Considering how limited my diet was growing up, I'm surprised I'm not a picky eater, but there is very little I don't like or won't at least try!

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  10. Oh Lisa, your stuffed shells look great...full of flavor and yes adding fontina cheese sure make them taste much nicer.
    Hope you are having a great week :)

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  11. Stuffed shells are a great dish, and I really like the addition of radicchio - not a common ingredient in a dish like this (at least it isn't to me). Really good flavor combo, and nice pictures. Thanks for this.

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  12. Your photos are so enticing what a delicious dish :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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  13. That's quite a pair for stuffed shells. Funny enough, this is the third time seeing fennel and radicchio together in a recipe. It seems like an odd combo, but it's great.

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  14. I thought everyone liked onions! I love the look of this dish. I love stuffed pasta shells. Great dish and wonderful comfort food xx

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  15. I think I really need to switch out my Bon Appetit subscription to Food and Wine. All of their recipes are just so amazing...this one included!

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  16. Love this recipe! I rarely eat radicchio but this looks a must-make. Thanks for sharing. Scrummy images too.

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  17. my taste bud horizons are broadening every day, and this definitely sounds like something i'd be eager to try. gorgeous work, lisa!

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  18. I developed a fondness for radicchio after visiting the fields were it is grown in the Salinas Valley. Once it is cooked it does mellow nicely. The recipe for stuffed shells is very tempting!
    A delicious vegetarian dinner for autumn!

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  19. I had to laugh- I'm pretty sure spaghetti sauce was the first thing I learned to cook as well. Way back then, you couldn't get decent sauce in a jar like you can these days (totally dating myself). I make a similar pasta back but I've never added radiccio and fennel. I love the flavors of both, though, so I may have to try the combo out. The dish looks terrific, as always!

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  20. I am also fussy about onions. Thinly sliced and raw - no, no. Thinly sliced but grilled - acceptable. Minced and raw - ok but not preferred. Minced and cooked to melted sweetness - yes yes.

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  21. I never would have guessed you were a picky eater. I was too as a kid, but I've grown out of it pretty well. Does that mean there's still hope for my 15-year old?

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  22. I love tomato-based pasta dish and this is something I would love to enjoy on a relaxing weekend at home.

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  23. Very interesting take for a heartier but still light tomato sauce. Having a husband with problems to digest onions, I learned to cook without them or using them very sparingly. I do think most restaurants go overboard on the onions... and many home cooks too! ;-)

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  24. I have been craving something like this and waiting to be settled in my new kitchen to make it. But I must say the fennel and raddichio I never would have thought of though I love both tremendously. I love this! (and I will say I hated onions when I was a kid mainly because my dad put them in everything RAW!!! from tuna salad to hamburgers and I would have to pick everyone out one at a time. But I love them sautéed and caramelized for sauces.)

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  25. mmmmmmm, this sounds SO good. I've really grown to like fennel over the years. This is a must try for me.

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  26. Oh this looks so good and just the sort of comforting dish a person would need on a cold November evening. I like the way you have added both fontina and ricotta in the filling.It makes a nice change.

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  27. I love making this comforting dish and then freezing leftovers for my daughter's lunch later. adding radicchio is such a fresh idea!

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  28. This is something I have to try!:)

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