lately the weather up here in portland (maine) has been sort of unpredictable. a few weeks ago, it was warm (well, relatively) and sunny. then we got 18” of snow. now it’s just warm enough for the precipitation to be rain, rather than snow, but still chilly. in other words, perfect weather for stuffed shells with peas and burrata.
besides the obvious (that would be the burrata, please and thank you), one of the things i like best about this baked pasta is how effortlessly it straddles this in-between season that we’re in (for the next 5 minutes for those of you south of the mason-dixon line and for the next 5 – 10 weeks for those of us a little farther north).
on the one hand, this casserole is a baked pasta, which means we turned the oven on, which means it’s a warm and cozy dish. but wait! peas! there are lots of green peas, which always mean “spring” to me, so this is a spring dish, right? well, yes, but it’s also hearty and comforting, because of all of the (delicious, delicious) cheese.
soooo, yeah. this guy is happy to straddle the ever-shifting and always confounding “line” between winter and spring (which in my experience has always been more of a protracted exercise in bringing ALL of the layers and ALL of the bags to shove the layers into than an actual line. oh! and an umbrella. definitely bring an umbrella. preferably a better one than what i dug out of the seat back in the car earlier yesterday when i decided “drowned rat” wasn’t really the look i was going for while running errands… in my sleeping bag coat, because did i mention it’s juuuuust warm enough to rain instead of snow?)
as part of his willingness to toggle back and forth between winter and spring, these stuffed shells with peas and burrata are equally happy with frozen peas or those glorious fresh peas that will be popping up for a few blissful weeks later, when the line is more between spring and summer than spring and winter.
i made this recipe with frozen peas because a) did i mention the snow on the ground and b) if i’m being honest, i’m probably not going to put peas that i shelled by hand (which is kind of fun and definitely time consuming) into the oven. those are going to cook for a max of 1 minute before being tossed with something yummy and light, just as soon as i can get my hands on their little green pods.
but in the meantime, i will be enjoying these stuffed shells with (frozen) peas and burrata and trying not to think too much about why our front yard has half the snow of every other yard on the street. i’m sure it’s fine…
ps – this asparagus ricotta pasta is a yummy way to use up that last bit of ricotta cheese that you’ll have leftover from these stuffed shells.
- nonstick spray or a little bit of olive oil (for the baking dish)
- 12 oz. (340 g.) jumbo pasta shells
- 16 oz. (454 g.) frozen green peas
- 1 ½ cups (12 oz. / 340 g.) ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup (2 5/8 oz. / 75 g.) grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 8 oz. (227 g.) burrata cheese, see notes
- preheat the oven to 375° F. spray or oil a large (9” x 13” / 23 cm x 33 cm), shallow baking dish.
- bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the shells for 9 minutes (keep them very al dente so they don’t get mushy when they bake). drain the shells and rinse the starch off under cold water so they stop cooking and don’t all clump and stick together. drain them well (including the pockets of the shells) and then spread them out in the prepared baking dish.
- while the shells are cooking, put the frozen peas in the colander and run under water to break up any icy chunks. transfer the drained peas to a large mixing bowl.
- to the bowl with the peas, add the ricotta, pecorino or parmesan, mint, lemon zest, and lemon juice. stir to combine everything.
- fill each shell with a rounded tablespoon of the pea/ricotta mixture. know that your hands are going to get a bit messy, as are some of the outsides of the shells. it’s ok, we’ll just cover the messy shells with more cheese.
- hold the balls of burrata over the shells and tear the cheese into chunks, letting the creamy ricotta on the inside fall on the shells and then sprinkling the outer part of the cheese around the dish. (if you’re using fresh mozzarella, just scatter pieces of it around the shells.)
- bake for 20 minutes, until the shells and cheese are beginning to turn golden brown. serve immediately.
burrata is a lovely combination of fresh mozzarella on the outside and creamy ricotta on the inside. if you can’t find it in the fancy cheese section of your local store (or sometimes in the produce section on ice near the tomatoes, if your grocery store likes to try to "help" you), you can substitute fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks.
leftovers keep for several days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. because the stuffed shells don’t have a sauce, to avoid drying them out when reheating them, put them in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle a tiny bit of water over them (get your fingers wet under the faucet then spritz your fingers at the shells), and cover the bowl before you put it in the microwave.