- 18 jumbo pasta shells (about half of a 12-ounce [340-gram] box)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) olive oil
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 12 ounces (340 grams) frozen artichoke hearts (1 package), thawed and patted dry
- ¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine
- ½ cup (1¼ ounces or 35 grams) finely grated Romano cheese
- ½ cup (1½ ounces or 45 grams) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon table salt, plus more for pasta pot
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons (55 grams or ½ stick) unsalted butter
- ¼ cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup (115 grams) ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon table salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
Here, the ricotta is on the outside, a lush complement for the pockets of louder flavor within.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook shells according to package directions. Drain, and toss with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, to keep them from sticking.
- Melt the butter in a heavy 12-inch skillet (or the bottom of the dried-out pot you used to cook your pasta, if you’re into dirtying fewer dishes), and cook it until it turns nutty and brown, stirring occasionally to keep the solids moving on the bottom of the pan. Once it is a nice nutty brown, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then the onion, and cook until it is lightly brown and caramelized, for about 7 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts, and cook them until they are softened a bit, for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, and cook until it completely disappears.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool slightly; then transfer the artichoke mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add both cheeses, the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper, and pulse in the food processor until well chopped but still a little coarse.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (or the wiped-out pot you made the artichoke filling in, if you’re still into spending less time scrubbing pots) over medium-high heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour all at once and whisk it until smooth. Add the milk, a small glug at a time, whisking constantly so that no lumps form. When the mixture has reached a batterlike consistency, you can begin adding the milk in larger pours, whisking the whole time. Once all the milk is added, add the garlic and bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently. The sauce will immediately begin to thicken once it boils. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the ricotta, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Adjust salt, pepper, and lemon to taste.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour 2 cups of sauce (you’ll have about 2½ cups total) into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Scoop 1 tablespoon of artichoke filling inside each cooked shell; this will fill it but still allow the sides to close and neatly hold the filling intact while it bakes. Nest each pasta shell in the sauce, seam up. Dollop a spoonful of the remaining sauce over each shell. Cover the dish with foil, and bake it for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake it for a final 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley or basil, if using, and serve immediately.