French Onion Stuffed Shells

Make these, they’re good.

Now that I’ve got that admonition out of the way, here’s the rest of the post…

It’s the holiday season, and we’re really excited to be able to throw a holiday party for friends this year– had to skip 2020, of course. Traditionally we go all out when it comes to food, and this time I was looking for a vegetarian dish– something warm and filling, with a flavor profile that went along with the rest of our (admittedly meat-heavy) spread. I focused my search on caramelized onions (a favorite) and came across a recipe for jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a cheese and onion mixture that sounded right up my alley. The original recipe called for chicken or beef stock, but I replaced it with vegetable stock with no ill effects.

I’ll admit that this is a bit time-consuming– slicing the onions, even with a mandoline, took long enough that my eyes were tearing up a decent bit, and caramelizing them took a full 30 minutes. Once the onions were done, however, the rest of the recipe was pretty simple– just stir up a filling, stuff the cooked pasta shells (boiled while the onions cooked), and whisk together a sauce before putting it all in the oven. I will say that the finished dish– while delicious– is just a tiny bit lacking when it comes to being a main dish. I think it needs a touch more heft to really hold its own, but since I can’t think of anything I’d add, I’ll just plan on using this as a side dish for future dinner parties.

French Onion Stuffed Shells (slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 4 large onions, sliced very thinly (I used a mandoline slicer)
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • finely chopped parsley (optional)
  • In a large, oven-safe skillet, melt your butter and add in onions, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and 1/4 tsp. of the thyme. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized.
  • While your onions are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta shells per the package directions. Mine took 16 minutes to cook through. Drain shells and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.
  • Once your onions are done cooking, add garlic and stir in gently. Remove from heat.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Remove half of the onions to a medium bowl and add ricotta, gruyere, parmesan, and egg. Season with more salt and pepper, and the rest of the thyme. Stir to form your filling.
  • Using a spoon, stuff your cooled pasta shells with cheese filling and set aside.
  • Return your pan with the rest of the onions to the burner and turn to medium low. Sprinkle 1 tbs. flour over the onions and stir, cooking, for 1-2 minutes.
  • Slowly add stock to the pan, stirring constantly, and cook for another 3-4 minutes to allow it to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in cream.
  • Nestle your stuffed shells, seam side up, into the pan. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Broil for a minute or two at the end if you want more color on the cheese.
  • Garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.

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