This is one of the greatest comfort food dishes of all time. Just typing this makes me happy.
As is often the case, I had a fabulous meal in a restaurant and couldn’t wait to get home to try to recreate it. Jeanie and I were vacationing in Aspen Colorado. We had spent a beautiful summer afternoon walking around downtown visiting shops and admiring the breathtaking scenery. We walked past a restaurant with a lovely outdoor seating area and decided to have an early dinner to avoid the inevitable evening rush. We ordered drinks and just then, a server walked past with a plate for another guest, and I knew I had to have that! Could it possibly taste as incredible as it looked? The answer is yes.
We all know what it is like when someone presents a plate that is almost too pretty to eat. The aroma of tomato, fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan cured me of that feeling immediately. I grabbed my dining tools and went in. I am certain that my eyes rolled back in my head. I slowed way down so that I could savor every single bite. Such creaminess. The flavors and textures were extraordinary. The sauce was so robust that it must have been in the making all day. I wish I could remember the name of that place. Anyway, no shortage of fine dining in Aspen or most anywhere these days including Grand Rapids. So many of us are food wise. We care about quality ingredients, preparation technique, and imaginative presentation. Food awareness has been a boon to many cities experiencing growth and renewal. I am delighted to see it and in awe of the talent and skill of our professional chefs.
I hope you give this a try and please share the results with me. This is my attempt at duplicating the beautiful meal I was served on vacation more than a decade ago, and I still remember vividly, with the exception of the name of the establishment
- 12 ounces (1 box) Jumbo pasta shells
- 5 sweet (or hot) Italian sausages-casings removed
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 shallots-small dice
- 3 garlic cloves-minced
- 5 cups of Marinara or your favorite jarred sauce
- 2 (15 oz) containers of whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
- 3 Tbs chopped fresh Basil leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese