1 pound large shells
For the vodka sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter
2 crushed cloves garlic, sliced
A fat pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup vodka (Rach likes Tito’s)
One 28-ounce can diced or whole Italian tomatoes (if using whole, crush into pieces by hand)
1 bottle tomato passata
A sprinkle of salt
A sprinkle of sugar
A handful of basil leaves, torn
1 cup heavy cream
For the crab filling:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and black pepper or white pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
½ cup dry vermouth or vodka
1 pound pound crab meat, picked carefully for shell and tendon (Rach likes king leg meat)
A few dashes hot sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup packed flat parsley and celery tops, chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Handful fresh basil, to garnish
Bring a large pot of water to boil and season it with salt. Add pasta and under cook the pasta 3 minutes less than directions. Drain, arrange cut-side up on parchment-lined tray.
For the vodka sauce, in large pot over medium heat, combine EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and butter. When butter melts, stir in the garlic and red pepper and stir 2 minutes, add vodka and reduce by half, add tomatoes, passata, salt, sugar, and basil, and simmer 20 minutes, then add cream and reduce heat to low.
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
For the crab filling, place a skillet over medium heat with EVOO and butter. When butter melts, add shallots and garlic, season with salt, add thyme and lemon zest, and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Add dry vermouth or vodka and let it almost evaporate, add crab, combine, add hot sauce and lemon juice and cool. Combine with ricotta, egg, half the Parm cheese and chopped parsley and celery leaves. Pour a couple of cups of sauce into a baking dish and fill shells, arrange open-side up and pour additional sauce over, making a stripe across each row of the shells. I angle the shells in to fill pan tightly. Top with some shredded mozzarella and remaining Parm. Leave enough of the shells peeking out so you can see that these are crab-stuffed shells.
Cover shells with foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake until cheese is brown and bubbly, 12 to 15 minutes more. Garnish with fresh basil.