You don't have to be Italian to appreciate the bake-and-serve simplicity of a big plate of stuffed shells. It's the kind of Sunday supper that transcends tradition to make everyone happy. So when you've got a whole mess of people to feed, this is the dish that benefits both host and guests. There's no unexpected additions of spinach to keep picky eaters away, and no hidden meat, so vegetarians will be happy. (Although that's not to say you couldn't sub in some sautéed greens or sausage if you wanted!)
If you really want to spread the prep out over a few days, the shells can be boiled, and then tossed with a bit of vegetable oil or olive oil before cooling and refrigerating in a covered container. The entire pan can also be frozen for future potlucks — follow these instructions for freezing enchiladas and line the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
Classic Stuffed Shells
Serves 4 to 6
30 jumbo shells (from a 12-ounce box)
1 pound (about 2 heaping cups) fresh ricotta cheese
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded fresh or packaged mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups (16 fluid ounces) of your favorite marinara sauce, divided
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Cook the shells according to package directions, then drain and briefly rinse with cold water to make them cool enough to handle.
Stir the ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Taste and add more salt if needed; the overall saltiness will depend on the cheeses used.
Spread 1 cup sauce across the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
Stuff each shell with about 1 heaping tablespoon cheese filling and place in the dish. If some shells split during the cooking process, you may have a few fragments left over, but you should end up with about 2-dozen shells in the dish.
Top the shells with the remaining 1 cup sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, and Parmesan or Pecorino.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Make and take:The shells can be assembled up to 12 hours in advance. Cover the dish with foil, and refrigerate until ready to bake on site. Or bake the shells completely, cool to room temperature, and cover with foil, then reheat in a 300°F oven.