Italy – Our Happy Place!
We absolutely LOVE Italy! The people, the landscape, the FOOD!
What a treat it was a few years ago to spend a month in Tuscany and to explore the area. We stayed in a very small village just outside of Luca for three weeks. The villa was so charming with quintessential Italian decor, olive trees, a great view and even an automatic (dramatic) entrance gate to the property. Then we spend the remainder of our stay within the walls in Luca. It was great to experience the remote location of our villa and then to transition to city life. The perfect balance!
Exploring The Area
The location was perfect for exploring various areas throughout Tuscany. We visited the Lamborghini factory and museum which was fascinating. The hubs and our friends really enjoyed seeing these magnificent cars being assembled.
Carrera Marble – So Beautiful!
Another fun escapade is to take a jeep tour of the Carrara marble site. It was spectacular and so interesting to witness the harvesting of these huge slabs of marble. Now we know why this location was chosen for a James Bond movie. Check out our previous post for more info here.
Then on to Bologna, deemed as the gastronomical center and the historical capitol of the Emilia-Romagna region. We made a short stop in Modena to enjoy a balsamic tasting – yes, tasting balsamic vinegar just like sipping fine wine. It is amazing how this product is so heavily regulated to ensure the finest quality. And, it was not at all like what we have had here even in the more pricey selections.
We really enjoyed visiting and getting to know the family that produces Acetaia di Giorgio. At first, we thought we arrived at the wrong location as this incredible nectar is produced in a lovely family home. Former President Obama and Michelle Obama found this great place and we thought it must be good.
We spent one night in the city center in Bologna and walked all over this stunning city. The local market area was incredible offering every Italian delicacy imaginable.
Wine Tastings, Cooking Classes, Exploring And More…
There were wine tastings and cooking classes held at our villa and lots of fun times with our various friends that visited us during our stay.
What made me think of our time in Italy was a delicious stuffed shell recipe that we tried last week. It was a modified version of Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe. We usually make our own sauce, but decided to make things easier and used Rao’s Arribiatta sauce. They make the best sauces ever and you can hardly tell that they are not homemade. All of their sauces have great quality ingredients and no additives. Rao’s is a little more pricey than some other brands, but is definitely worth it.
Taste Of Italy – Stuffed Shells
We had a crispy green salad and paired the pasta dish with a Titus Cabernet. We discovered this wine when we visited one of our favorites in Napa Valley. As it turns out Titus is owned by the winemaker from Chappellet. Who knew? We had a chance to visit Titus Vineyards and really enjoy their wines. Of course, we joined their wine club and love getting our deliveries here at the house.
What else can you ask for? Creamy cheese and basil filled shells with spicy arrabbiata sauce.
The recipe takes a little time to assemble, but is definitely worth it. It freezes really well and we can pull out a serving if we are in a hurry and do not have time to cook dinner.
Stuffed Spicy Pasta Shells
- July 21, 2021
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- 12 ounces (one box) of jumbo pasta shells
- 2 tablespoons olive oil to spread over to prepare baking dish
- 5 cups sauce (we used Rao's Arrabbiata Sauce and it was perfect)
- 2 15-ounce containers of ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (very important to use fresh)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Step 1
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Step 2
- Lightly oil a 12 x 9 inch baking dish
- Step 3
- Partially cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until SLIGHTLY tender (about 5 minutes)
- Step 4
- Using a slotted spoon, remove shells and drain. Make sure to spread them out so that they do not stick together
- Step 5
- Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, egg, basil, parsley and salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl
- Step 6
- Spoon about 1 cup of the arrabbiata sauce on the bottom of the baking dish (spread out evenly)
- Step 7
- Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons per shell)
- Step 8
- Place filled shells in the sauce in the baking dish
- Step 9
- Spoon the remaining sauce on top of the shells (try to cover completely)
- Step 10
- Top with shredded mozzarella
- Step 11
- Bake in the lower part of your oven until the filling is heated through and the top of the shells are golden brown (approximately 25 minutes)
- Step 12
- NOTE: we placed the shells under the broiler for a couple of minutes to get the cheese nicely browned (watch closely to make sure not to burn)
- Step 13