Whether you have company coming over and want to make something fabulous, or are just craving a creamy, cheesy, pasta dinner, this dish will not disappoint.
Despite it's look, it was simple to put together and it was delicious.
Shells, stuffed with a mixture of swiss chard, peas and cheese.....all covered in a decadent creamy fontina cheese sauce....... it was heaven. At least it was for me last night.
The original recipe calls for manicotti, which I'm sure make for a very elegant presentation, but stuffing manicotti shells in the past has resulted in a huge mess and a very frustrated cook. So I used jumbo shells instead. They are a snap to fill, and make every bit as beautiful a presentation if you ask me. The filling only carried me through about 20 shells or so, so you may want to save the rest of the uncooked shells for another meal... I'm not sure exactly how many are in a box.
Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Stuffed Shells
recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com
the recipe can also be found in 'Giada's Kitchen'.
Butter, for greasing the pan
approximately 20-24 jumbo sized pasta shells (I cooked the whole box, but only used about half. The filling might take you further if you don't fill the shells as full as I did, but I recommend that you stuff them generously.)
for the filling:
1 bunch of either red or white Swiss chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1 cup shredded mozzarella (4 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
for the fontina fonduta sauce:
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups (6 ounces) fontina cheese, grated
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) mozzarella, shredded
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish liberally with butter.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer, over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add the fontina cheese and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and basil.Using a knife, remove the leaves from the stems of the chard. Discard the stems. Chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the chard and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Place the ricotta cheese, peas, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cooled chard mixture and blend until smooth. Spoon some of the cheese sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Just enough to provide a layer between the shells and the bottom of the pan. Spoon the filling mixture into each jumbo shell, and place the stuffed shells in the prepared baking dish.
Pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.