I don’t know what was in the water 9 months ago, but several of my people are popping out babies. My friends Bridget & Zac had a beautiful baby girl, Ruby, on the first day of spring. A few weeks later came Beatrice to another set of friends. Ruby & Beatrice’s arrivals were two great reasons to make one of my very favorite pasta recipes. These new parents needed to eat, and springtime is the right time for this dish full of green veggies. It’s comfort food that you can justify.
Springtime Baked Shells
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
16 ounces medium pasta shells
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½ pound broccoli, cut into small florets
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup frozen peas
30 ounces ricotta cheese
1½ cups Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13x2-inch baking dish. You can use a lasagna pan or something similar. When I need to deliver this dish, I like to use an Eco-Foil disposable 9x11x2 roaster/baker pan. It’s sturdy and comes with a domed lid for easy transport.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook pasta until extremely al dente.
- In a large pan, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle in a little salt. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the red pepper flakes, if using.
- Next toss in the broccoli and cook for one minute; add the zucchini and cook for two more minutes; sprinkle in more salt and some pepper. Add the green onion and cook another minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the frozen peas. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and a glug (about a tablespoon) of olive oil until well combined.
- Try not to step on the little dog under your feet who is patiently hoping you will drop something.
- Assemble: Add half the pasta, then spread ½ cup* of the ricotta mixture over the surface (*NOT half of the entire mixture, just a ½ of a cup).
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan over the ricotta, then ½ of the vegetables. (The little dog is still lurking. Ignore him.)
- Repeat with the rest of the pasta, the rest of the ricotta, and another 1/3 of the Parmesan. End with the remaining vegetables and top with the end of the Parm.
- Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly-hot.
- Serve with extra Parmesan and crusty bread.