Baked Shells with Tomato and Mozzarella
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A make-ahead version of pasta with tomato sauce that's studded with gooey mozzarella cheese.
Serves: 6
For the sauce:
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • 1 can good-quality whole tomatoes (I like Muir Glen), pureed in a food processor or with a stick blender*
For the pasta:
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¾ pound large shells
  • ½ pound mozzarella, diced
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
Make the sauce:
  1. In a large saucepan, heat about 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, just until translucent but not brown.
  2. Sprinkle in some salt (1/4 teaspoon is a good start, if you're measuring). Add the tomatoes and stir. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat so the sauce simmers, and let it reduce for about 15 minutes, until it has thickened. Taste for salt, adding more as necessary. Grind in some pepper if you like. Use immediately, or cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge for 5 days.
Make the pasta:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush a 9 by 9-inch baking dish (preferably one pretty enough to put down on the table) with olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, or in the pan in which you cooked the pasta or sauce, toss the sauce, the basil, the shells, and the mozzarella. Throw in ½ cup of parmesan and grind in some pepper. Taste for salt, adding some if necessary. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the pasta are browned.
You can of course buy already pureed tomatoes for the sauce, but I find that whole tomatoes preserve the taste best.
Recipe by Big Girls Small Kitchen at