Shells Stuffed with Fennel and Escarole

///Shells Stuffed with Fennel and Escarole

Shells Stuffed with Fennel and Escarole

A magazine cover photo sparked my interest in creating this following recipe. That and my love of fennel, which was used to stuff the pasta shells. I decided to make it my own!

This recipe is easy, but takes time. So only make these veggie-stuffed shells when you have time to spend in the kitchen! Consider it a wonderful way to spend a rainy or snowy day.  Every step is easy, but this is a multi-step recipe as you need to :

  • Cook the vegetables
  • Combine them with the cheeses and eggs
  • Cook and drain the pasta
  • Fill pasta with veggie mixture
  • Put together. Combine…  collate… whatever you want to call it …and then bake!

Those are the steps! Make this when you want everything done ahead of time.

My friends and I enjoyed this with a reserve 2004 Chilean Merlot from the Maipo Valley that I pulled from my wine cellar. (My “cellar” is just a Haier wine cooler, not an actual cellar!)

Shells Stuffed with Fennel and Escarole

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (garlic flavored if available)
1 large fennel bulb (about 2 pounds), cored and thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 small head escarole, washed well and chopped (about 1 1 /2 pounds)*
12 ounces jumbo shells
2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
6 ounces Fontinella cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)**
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon or more hot pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper
32-ounce jar marinara or other favorite pasta sauce
1/4 cup jarred Alfredo sauce

Heat a 2- or 3-quart pot of salted water.  If you’re planning to bake this right away, also preheat the oven to 375°

Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. If the fennel begins to stick, add a couple tablespoons water to the skillet. Add the escarole and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water again if needed. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and let cool.

Cook the shells in the boiling water until al dente*** Drain and rinse with cool under running water. Pat the shells dry.

For the filling, fold the ricotta, 1 cup of the shredded cheese, the eggs and parsley into the vegetables; season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes to taste.****

In another bowl, mix the marinara and Alfredo sauces. Pour some of the sauce (about 1 1/2 cups) into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish so the dish bottom of the dish is lightly covered with sauce. Stuff each shell with  a rounded tablespoon of the filling and nestle the shells in the sauce as close together as possible. Drizzle 1 cup of the remaining sauce on top, reserving the rest to heat and serve with the finished dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. If you’re not baking immediately, cover and refrigerate.

Bake the shells in a pre-heated 375-oven for about 40 minutes, until golden. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Warm the remaining sauce and serve on the side.

makes 6 servings


* To easily “chop” the escarole, try using kitchen scissors to just snip the escarole after you’ve rinsed it.

**  You can substitute almost any cheese that melts nicely  — provolone, gruyere, Monterrey Jack resulting in a sharper or milder flavor, depending on what you select.

*** al dente means that the pasta is still a bit firm when you bite into it

**** To taste means to add how much you think you’d like to add, depending how salty, pepper or spicy you want the dish,


– bonnie
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By |2017-08-25T08:52:25+00:00March 5th, 2013|Entrees, Recipes|0 Comments

About the Author:

Blogger Bonnie Tandy Leblang has been covering food since before it was hip to do so! She’s penned magazine, newspaper and syndicated food columns in addition to cookbooks. Follow her on twitter @BonnieBOTB and on Instagram@BiteoftheBest and at @BonnieBOTB "I eat for a living!” is her mantra, sharing what she’s sampled so you’ll know where (or where not) to go, plus what food products and gadgets to try. For her full bio go to the about us page.

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