I Tried Lidia Bastianich’s Stuffed Shells and They’re a Cheese-Lover’s Dream
In my quest for the perfect stuffed shell, I wanted to try a meatless version to see how it would stand up to the meaty recipes I grew up with. I was also curious to see what Italian cooking queen Lidia Bastianich did with this classic dish and, lo and behold, her stuffed shells recipe was made with scallions, frozen peas, and a blend of three cheeses. I had faith in Lidia, but had a few questions. Would the peas hurt or hinder? Is there such a thing as too much cheese? These queries weren’t going to answer themselves, so I headed to the kitchen to try the recipe myself.
Get the recipe: Baked Stuffed Shells at Lidia’s Italy
How to Make Lidia’s Stuffed Shells
To start, cook the large shells in a pot of salted water until al dente. In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce by sautéing garlic and crushed red pepper. Next, add in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and a cup of pasta water that you slosh around in the can to make sure you grab all of the tomato bits. The sauce is lightly seasoned with salt and cooked at a rapid simmer until slightly thickened, which takes about 20 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the filling by mixing ricotta, some mozzarella, Grana Padano (I subbed in Parmigiano Reggiano because my store didn’t carry Grana Padano), scallions, parsley, peas, and egg. The remaining Grana Padano and mozzarella is mixed into a separate bowl and reserved for the topping. Once the sauce has thickened, spread half of it in the bottom of a 10-by-15-inch or other large baking dish and stuff the cooked shells with the ricotta mixture. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the tomato sauce and top the shells with the remaining cheese and tomato sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400°F for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Let the stuffed shells rest for 5 minutes before serving.
My Honest Review of Lidia’s Stuffed Shells
It’s always great to have a meatless option of a dish, and I can confirm that the blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan was just right. (I’d be curious to try this again when I can find Grana Padano, but the Parmesan was a delicious substitute.) The peas, scallions, and parsley added a burst of brightness to every bite. I like the simplicity of the tomato sauce seasoned with garlic and chili flakes cooked in olive oil. The spice from the chili flakes was delicious with the rich cheese and sweet peas; overall, everything came together beautifully. One of the first remarks I made when tasting this dish was that I loved how I could taste each ingredient and that everything was well-balanced.
If You Make Lidia’s Stuffed Shells, a Head’s Up
When you pull the dish out of the oven you might notice that the sauce and filling are quite loose. My guess is that comes from the fact that you add the frozen peas directly to the cheese filling, which means they release some additional moisture as they cook. The dish is still delicious and I found that the noodles soaked up the excess liquid after the dish to cool off completely. This was a recipe that got better with time and made the perfect leftovers.
Overall rating: 9/10