– One 1 lb. box of jumbo pasta shells
– 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
– One 16 oz. container of ricotta (whole or skim or fat free, whatever your choice)
– 6 oz shredded mozzerella cheese (separated)
– 2 tbsp dried or fresh parsley flakes
– 4 tbsp minced garlic (separated)
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– One 28 oz can of CRUSHED tomatoes (or puree a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in a blender until smooth)
– 1/2 cup vodka (either the cheap stuff or expensive, it doesn’t effect the taste)
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 tsp red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp dried italian seasonings (blend, or oregano and basil)
For Pasta: FOLLOW PRECISELY so that shells do not stick to the pot or each other! In a large pot, pour 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil. Tilt the pot so that the oil coats the bottom of the pot. Fill pot with water. Add another tbsp of oil to the water, along with a liberal amount of salt. Bring water to a boil, add the shells. Cook, boiling consistently, for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Separate each shell (you should have about 30) and place on a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and allow to cool slightly.
For Filling: While pasta is cooking, in a large bowl mix together ricotta, half of the mozzerella, 2 tbsp garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Fill each pasta shell with about one tbsp of mixture, and place seam-side down into the dish. Cover filled pasta shells with damp paper towels while making the sauce.
For Sauce: In a large skillet or heavy saucepan, sautee 2 tbsp. garlic in olive oil. Add crushed tomatoes, vodka, red pepper flakes, and heavy cream. Stir together, and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until flavors have blended and sauce has thickened. Pour sauce over pasta shells (remove the paper towels first!) and ensure each shell is covered completely.
To Bake: At this point you can refrigerate the dish for up to one day (covered in plastic wrap), if you are making it ahead of time. Simply allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour before putting it in the oven. To cook, cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil, cover with remaining mozzerella and the italian spices, and return to oven for 5 or 10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.