Ricotta and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Shells

These babies are not the insipid things that used to pass as your school lunch.  These guys are fun, delightful, and full of yum.  The kale adds a grownup kick and the fresh mozzarella is also a nice bump in flavor.

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Ricotta and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Shells
You will have extra sauce from this recipe, but that is never a problem in our household. Simply freeze what you don’t use for another time.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup minced onion; about 1 small onion
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 4 cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Filling and Shells
6 ounces jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt (for the kale)
8 ounces kale, chopped; about 8 cups lightly packed
16 ounces ricotta cheese; 2 cups
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 1 cup lightly packed
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (for the filling)
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 large eggs
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Tomato Sauce
Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions. Sauté the onions for 7 to 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté for another 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Makes 3 to 4 cups

Filling and Shells
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta shells, stirring often when they first go into the pot. Cook until al dente, drain, and then rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and salt and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until translucent and beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the onions are very soft and caramelized. Remove 1/2 cup to a medium bowl (that will receive the ricotta filling). Add the kale to the skillet and cook until wilted but still bright green. Transfer to a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish.

Combine the rest of the filling ingredients, except the eggs and mozzarella, with the onions in a medium bowl. Before adding the eggs, taste for salt. I typically don’t feel any is needed due to the bread crumbs and cheese, but it’s good to double-check.

Scoop soup-spoon portions of filling and press into the shells. Try not to overstuff so that you have enough stuffing at the end. Place the shells onto the kale and cover with 2 cups of tomato sauce. Lay slices of mozzarella over the sauce. Bake for 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly on the sides and the filling is cooked through.

Serves 4 to 6