"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Left My Heart at Villa Vignamaggio (Chianti, Tuscany)

(Chianti with 100% Sangiovese Grapes produced by one of our favorite villas in Tuscany.)
Nine years ago, Patrick and I went to Italy for two weeks. After spending a few days in Venice and a few days in Florence, we took the train to Tuscany where we spent a full glorious and memorable week.  My daughter was just a little baby then - she was about 9 months old (now, she is 10 years old). And, my little sister, Tanicha, was about 7 years old at that time. We took her with us. That was probably the best vacation that Patrick and I have had.  Tuscany is where I want to retire, die, and be buried. I love it there.

(Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chanti, Tuscany (Italy), circa July 2003.)
We stayed at this beautiful Villa in a little town in Chianti, called Greve.  The Villa is called Villa Vignamaggio. http://www.vignamaggio.it/index-english.html. It was breathtaking!

The grounds were immaculate. I loved the rolling hillsides with the vineyards and olive trees. The surrounding areas were the quintessential picture of what the Tuscan countryside is.

The villa itself was gorgeous and very clean and comfortable. They had a pool, which we were able to enjoy since we went there in July.  They also had a children's play area, which our daughter enjoyed.

With our package, we enjoyed a 4-course dinner, with amazing wine, two nights per week.

They gave us tours of their winery and the caves where they stored their wines. The tour was great.  

We also got to try many of their different wines.  The wines were fabulous. I particularly loved their Obsession.  http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=9e6476c1-3e5b-4fec-9c99-e7148da279b2

They also make their own olive oil, which we could taste until our heart's content. I loved the labels on the olive oil.  http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=87282c23-b5ea-4b0f-b572-b045e31ef188
We actually brought some wine and olive oil back with us to the United States, and shared with family and friends. We had wished that we were allowed to bring more, but Customs had limits.

As you can tell, we absolutely loved this place. The inn keepers and winemakers were incredibly hospitable and wonderful hosts. We haven't been to Italy since. Tuscany is one place where Patrick and I are planning to return to in the near future. And, every once in a while, I day dream about Villa Vignamaggio and their wines.

Well, sometimes dreams do come true! This past weekend, as I was walking back from getting coffee at the Peet's Store across the street from the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, I decided to go into this wine shop, the Wine Thieves, to say hi to the owner and just browse his selection. http://www.winethieves.com/. I am always curious to see what "real" wine shops carry and how expensive. And, since his shop is called the "Wine Thieves", I was doubly curious about the prices.  As I was looking around the different selections, what did I find in the "Tuscan/Super Tuscan" section? A Villa Vignamaggio Chianti Classico (2008). I was speechless. Actually, I let out a huge shout of "Oh my Gosh!" The owner jumped up from behind the counter, walked over to where I was, and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, and apologized for scaring him. I told him the story about our trip to Tuscany, and our stay at Villa Vignamaggio. I told him how Patrick and I really enjoyed the wines, and that was the best vacation experience since we've been together almost 20 years ago. I told him I couldn't believe that he had this wine so close by (less than 5 miles away), and I didn't know. He said it's not an easy wine to import to the U.S., but, he had some connections who helped him bring this wine over. He said it was one of his favorites too. It was such a nostalgic moment when I walked to the car with the wine bottle in a brown bag, told Patrick I had a surprise for him, and pulled out the wine. He had the same reaction as I did. He said "Oh wow, where did you find that?"

This Chianti is made of 100% Sangiovese grapes.  It's a deeper, fuller Chianti, with a beautifully intense red color.  It has aromas of ripe red berries (like cherries and raspberries).  It is smooth on the palate, and goes well with most Italian dishes. Last night, we had it with some Pesto Pasta with Italian sausage.  It was just perfect!  Here is a description of the 2010 vintage: http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=bb34dc19-7cff-4802-9077-80619eb9017e.  

When Patrick and I first begin to experiment with red wine about 18 years ago when we met at UC Berkeley, we started with drinking Chianti. We found it a little bit lighter and easier to drink. Maybe it's fate that I found this wine at the Wine Thieves. Maybe it's a sign that we need to plan another trip to Tuscany. Whatever the reasons, Patrick and I were very happy to enjoy this bottle of Chianti, look through some old pictures of our trip, and reminisce about one of our best vacations ever in Tuscany. We can't wait to go back . . . soon! (Tara: I hope you are reading this post. Let's plan this trip soon! -:) Tanicha: You'll be coming with us too. Luv U! -:)

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin; Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

(Maple Syrup, Mustard, and Fresh Thyme Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples)
Do you ever find yourself flipping through a fashion or entertainment magazine, and find your inspiration for your next family meal? I sometimes do. This past weekend, as I was getting a pedicure, I was flipping through the November 2012 issue of Self magazine. It's not typically my kind of magazine, but the pickings were slim at the nail shop - there were so many people getting pampered on Saturday.  Anyway, as I flipped through pages after pages, without really finding any articles of interest, I came across this recipe for Maple Pork Roast http://www.self.com/fooddiet/recipes/2012/11/maple-pork-roast.  That captured my attention. I was particularly drawn by the side ingredients - rather than the main protein.  The dish calls for sweet potatoes and Fuji apples.  Sweet potatoes are one of my top favorite vegetables, if not my favorite. Apples (particularly Fuji apples) are probably my favorite fruit. When you have both of these ingredients in one dish, and it's the Fall season, I was so inspired to make the dish.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to make it over the weekend. But, on Sunday, while grocery shopping for the week, I picked up some of the ingredients that I didn't already have at home. I called my favorite Butcher Shop in Oakland (Ver Brugge in Rockridge) and had them hold a beautifully cut pork tenderloin for me.

Tonight, when I got home, I made the tenderloin dish for dinner. Amazingly enough, it only took about 1 hour from start to finish. I got home at around 6:00. My daughter had volleyball practice until 7:00. By the time my husband went to pick her up from practice, dinner was served. And, it was delicious! The sweet earthy flavor from the maple syrup, combined with the acidity from the vinegar, and the whole grain mustard, plus the fragrant aromas of the thyme made the pork an inviting and delicious main dish. Then, the sweet potatoes roasted with the Fuji apples were a wonderful accompaniment. The dish really makes you feel like it is really Fall. It so happens that today was the first day of our "rainy" season around the Bay Area. It must have been fate that I flipped through that particular issue of Self magazine and found this recipe. It surely is a recipe that I will keep in the "Adel's Favorite Recipes" binder.

With this Autumn-type dish and the cold wet weather we're having today, I decided to open up a bottle of one of my favorite red wine blends.  It's Bennett Lane's Maximus (2006 Napa Valley, CA) http://www.bennettlane.com/Winery/Wines/Maximus2005NapaValley/tabid/123/Default.aspx. This wine was a true find at Cost Plus World Market, and there is actually a story behind it. One Friday, I went to Cost Plus.  As I walked into the Store, there was a display with the Maximus right up front. I was first drawn by the label. Then, I read the description. I looked it up on my iPhone. The wine typically sells for about $35 a bottle. But, Cost Plus had it on sale for $15. I also found out that this wine won Double Gold in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I decided to pick up a bottle to try. When we tried it, it was really good. We decided to go back and buy more. When I showed up to the same store on Monday, they were completely sold out. The wine clerk at the store told me that the wine had gone on sale on that Thursday, but by Saturday, they were sold out. He called about 3 different Cost Plus Stores for me. Unfortunately, they were also sold out. We finally found a couple of stores in San Jose that still had some bottles left. So, my husband picked up a few more bottles for us on his way home from work. This wine is a full-bodied wine that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Malbec.  It is smooth and velvety, and very easy to drink.  It has wonderful flavors of dark cherries, blackberries, and hints of chocolate. It's always worth enjoying this wine whenever we have it.

I hope you have a great week ahead. If you are somewhere where it's raining or snowing right now, stay dry, warm, and safe.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Slow-Baked Pot Roast with Carrots and Red Potatoes

(Pot Roast with carrots and baby red potatoes.)
Tonight, we had one of the meals that I had intended to make last weekend, but was not able to because of a jammed-packed schedule. It's a pot roast recipe that I found on Food and Wine Magazine's website (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_33765_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html).

(Boneless Chuck Beef Roast.)
I changed the recipe up just a bit.  I used a boneless Chuck beef roast because that was on sale at the store, and a boneless roast cooks faster and more tenderly. I also used red baby potatoes, instead of Russet potatoes because I like them better.  I also baked the meat for about 3 hours at 325°, instead of 2 hours at 350°.  I like the meat to cook very slowly, and be extra tender.  It paid off big time. The meat was juicy, tender, and delicious. It is loaded with flavors. The honey gave it a nice and mild sweetness that balances very well with the savory flavors of the beef stock, red wine, thyme and garlic.

(Roast after browning.)
I actually made the roast last night (while watching the Presidential Debate), and stored it in the refrigerator for dinner tonight. Pot roasts are great because they store well, you can have lots of leftovers, and they are versatile. You can have it with rice, with pasta, or as tacos. Tonight, some of us had the roast with steamed Jasmine rice. My 6-year-old son had it in tacos. Everyone loved it! Even the kids, which is always my hope whenever I make a new dish. When my daughter walked into the house from her Ballet class, she sniffed and asked "what's for dinner? It smells delicious." That was music to my ear! This recipe will be added to my favorite recipes.

The Vino

A roast like this calls for a yummy, full-bodied red wine. I had just the right "weeknight" bottle in mind: Gundlach Bundschu's Mountain Cuvee (2009 Sonoma, CA). It's a red wine blend, made up of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It is a big body wine with an amazing texture on the palate. It has loads of deep dark berry fruit flavors, such as black cherry and blackberry.  Its tannins are soft, making it easy to drink. But, it has a smooth lingering finish, making it the perfect accompaniment to this roast. I picked up a bottle of this wine from Safeway recently. It's normally about $20, but it was on sale for $14.  We usually like the Gundlach Bundschu wines. (Their winery is beautiful.) I wanted to check out this vintage. I will go back to pick up more bottles to stock up. http://www.gunbun.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showdrilldown&productid=a8de8347-e678-ca33-cde6-cb2d7a8534b2&isMarketingURL=1&.

If you are looking for some earthy, delicious, and comforting dish to make this weekend, try this roast. I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mouthwatering Lasagna with Savory Homemade Meat Sauce

My children love lasagna. Actually, they love Auntie Evelyn's lasagna. They always have seconds and thirds of my friend Evelyn's lasagna. This weekend, I wanted to make a lasagna. I was inspired by this Food and Wine Magazine recipe that I found online (http://m.foodandwine.com/recipes/grandmas-lasagna). But, as I normally do, I changed it up and made it "my own."  I bought all the ingredients over the weekend. But, we had such a busy weekend that I didn't have any time to cook.

On Monday after work, I decided to make the lasagna for dinner on Tuesday. I made the meat sauce from scratch.  Since the sauce takes a long time to simmer, I started the sauce immediately when I got home from work. I let it simmer while we ate dinner and got the kids ready for bed. Once the kids were in bed, I worked on the filling and finished assembling the lasagna. I stopped at the point of baking, and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, on Tuesday night (between my son's soccer practice and my daughter's volleyball practice), we popped it in the oven to bake. The lasagna turned out scrumptiously delicious!  My kids actually loved it. Here is the modified recipe, and a break down of the different components. [NOTE: You can use jars of marinara sauce for this too.]

The Meat Sauce:
(Meat sauce bubbling on the stove.)
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 1 pound ground extra lean turkey
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two large (28-ounce) cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juices
  • One large (28-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4-6 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

(Meat sauce reduced after 1 1/2 hours of simmering.)
In a large Dutch oven, heat about 2 generous Tablespoons of the olive oil over medium- high heat. Add the sirloin and pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is brown (no pink). Once cooked, drain the meat on a paper towel and set aside.  In the same pot, add another Tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper, and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Then, add the garlic, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper and cook until aromatic. Return the meat to the pot and stir to mix with the onion/garlic. Add the tomato paste, stir with the meat, and cook until the meat is mixed well with the tomato paste. Add the two cans of chopped tomatoes, including the juices.  Then, add the can of tomato puree. Stir gently. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).  

Bring the sauce to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, and simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about 1/3, for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Turn off the stove, and let it sit while you prepare the filling and boil the pasta. [NOTE: You can use this meat sauce for regular pasta too. Feel free to make extra and refrigerate.]

The Filling and Lasagna Noodles:
  • 1 large (32 ounces) container of fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons basil (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups of shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound bag)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 package of dried lasagna noodles (I used whole grain as it's a little healthier)
(Assembled Lasagna.)
Bring a large deep pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water. Lay the noodles out between layers of paper towels to dry.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, with the chopped parsley, chopped basil, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add 2/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg.

(Lasagna all layered up.)
Take two 9-by-13-inch glass baking dishes. Spread about 1 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Line 4 noodles over the sauce in each dish. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, 1 cup of the sauce, and another 3-4 noodles. Repeat the layering with the remaining ricotta, 1 cup of the meat sauce. Top each dish with 3-4 noodles and cover with 1 cup of sauce. Mix the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan.  Sprinkle the cheese over the lasagna.

(Lasagna ready to bake.)
[NOTE: If you are making the lasagna ahead of time, STOP HERE. Let the lasagna cool for a few minutes. Then, cover with aluminum foil, and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to bake, take it out of the Fridge while the oven is preheating. Then, continue with the baking.]

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Bake the lasagna for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly, the top is golden, and the edges are crisp but not dry. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

My kids will always love Auntie Evelyn's lasagna. But, I am happy to say that they also loved Mommy's lasagna. I hope you give this a try. 

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Chicken w/Fingerling Potatoes

Chicken stuffed with portobello mushroom and goat cheese, rosemary fingerling potatoes
I am grateful for many things, particularly for my children and my family.  This week, I am reminded that my most difficult challenges are easier to overcome with the love of family and friends.  I am thankful to have extended family around this week.  As a person who loves cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and recipes, I am also grateful to be able to enjoy the fruits of my friend's agricultural labor. This week's post is about some goodies from my friend Keith.  Keith loves gardening.  He doesn't have a backyard, since he lives in a Condo.  But, he has a small garden on his balcony where he grows all kids of fruits and vegetables.  This week, he brought us some of his vegetables and herbs to try.  They included fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and parsley.

Basil and Italian Parsley from Keith's garden
Tonight, our family Sunday supper consisted of a lot of ingredients courtesy of Keith. We are thrilled to have my sister-in-law Shauna, her husband Brad, and the kids with us tonight.  I love having the dinner table full with people. I love hearing the kids ask questions before the meal, like: "what's in this chicken?" "Why would you stuff chicken with raisin?" "Is the chicken sweet?"

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
For a main dish, I made chicken thighs stuffed with a mixture of sauteed baby portobello mushrooms, red onions, chopped basil, chopped parsley, goat cheese, chopped dried Crimson golden raisins, salt and pepper.


Chicken thighs (boneless and skinless; about 8-12 depending on how many people you have eating)
1 pound of baby portobello mushrooms (wiped with a damp paper towel and diced)
1/2 red onions (diced)
1 Tablespoon of fresh basil (finely chopped)
1 Tablespoon of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (finely chopped
1 large log of Goat Cheese
1/2 cup of dried Crimson golden raisins
1 cup of dry white wine (to soak up the raisins)
1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Kitchen twine (or string)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place the raisins in a bowl, add the wine, and let it soak for about 20 minutes.

Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towel.  Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, heat up the extra virgin olive oil in a large sautee pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook until soft (about 6 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper AFTER cooking to reduce moisture. Remove from heat, put in a medium bowl, and let cool completely.

When the mushroom and onion mixture is cool, add the chopped parsley and basil. Then, add the goat cheese. Mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the chicken thighs with about a spoonful each of the mushroom mixture.  Roll the chicken pieces around the mixture to seal (it won't be perfect).  Tie each piece of stuffed chicken with some kitchen twine (tie it around twice, if needed, to keep the stuffing from falling out.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Arrange the stuffed chicken on the baking sheet - leaving a little bit of space between them.  Bake for about 30 minutes (or until cooked through).  Remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes. Serve with some rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes (see recipe below) or your favorite side dish and/or vegetables. NOTE: The chicken would also go well with steamed rice.

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling potatoes from Keith's garden
As a side, I roasted the fingerling potatoes from Keith's garden with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh rosemary.  NOTE: You can use dried rosemary from your spice cabinet.  After you clean the potatoes, add the oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, and mix. Put the potatoes in a baking dish, and roast at 375 for about 30 minutes.  You can cook them at the same time you're cooking the chicken.

The fingerling potatoes were delicious.  They were actually tastier than some potatoes I have bought in the store.  They were soft, creamy, buttery, and earthy.  They were a perfect accompaniment to the stuffed mushroom chicken.

Heirloom tomatoes from Keith's garden
Heirloom Tomatoes and Mixed Green Salad
Our family loves to have side salads with meals. My sister-in-law, Shauna, particularly likes my mixed green salad, with fresh heirloom tomatoes. It was a real treat to have so many different varieties of tomatoes from Keith. 

Garden of Adel!

My itty bitty garden, being nurtured by Keith.
Keith knows how much I love fresh fruits and vegetables. I, unfortunately, am not a big gardener. I tend to kill plants and vegetables when I try to plant them.  So, Keith has created a small garden for us in the backyard.  Last year, he planted sweet potatoes, which were great.  This year, he planted a variety of vegetables, including sugar snap peas (my favorite!), broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, basil, thyme, and rosemary. The garden is coming along pretty well. I can't wait to try some of the vegetables and herbs from there.

Grab a Cab!

Tonight, we decided to have a Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. We opened one of our bottles from Robledo Winery (2009 Napa Valley). http://www.robledofamilywinery.com/media/6735/2012_august_newsletter.pdf

This Cab is a full-bodied wine that has wonderful flavors of dark fruits such as plums and blackberries.  It paired very nicely with the portebello mushroom, dried raisins, and goat cheese mixture.  The stuffing has a lot of bold flavors, including the flavors from the parsley and the mushroom.  This Cab also is one of our favorites.

I hope you had an enjoyable weekend with your family. Until next time . . . Cheers!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Baked Cheesy Stuffed Pasta Shells: A Make-Ahead Creation

Baked Pasta Shells - prepared on the weekend, and baked during the week
In the last post, I mentioned that last Sunday I had made a baked pasta dish for a weeknight dinner. But, I didn't describe the dish because I wanted to wait until I had baked the pasta so I could have a picture to show you. I baked it tonight, and have a beautiful, mouth-watering, picture to include in this post. The flavors of this dish is out of this world good!

The recipe is also from Food and Wine Magazine (October 2012 issue). What I did was prepare the dish on Sunday up to the last part - the point of baking it - and placed it in a Pyrex baking dish. I covered the Pyrex baking dish up with Aluminum foil and put it in the Refrigerator.  Tonight, as I was leaving work, Patrick put it in the oven to bake. When I got home, he had just taken it out of the oven.  It was nicely hot and bubbly. We made a side green salad, using some delicious heirloom tomatoes from our neighbor Sujata's garden.  As I usually do, I made my own Balsamic Vinegar dressing. It was a really wonderful "weeknight" dinner.  It was extra special because my sister-in-law, Shauna, just flew in tonight from Arizona with her 3 kids to visit for a week. All the kids (except for her 1-month-old baby girl -:) loved the pasta and the salad.  Some of them even had seconds - surprising for my kids!

Below is the recipe.  If you have some time to make this dish, I guarantee you, your family will love it. And, it stores pretty well for easy and delicious weeknight dinners.

Ricotta-and-Fontina-Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 medium heads of radicchio (10 ounces total), chopped
12 ounces jumbo shells
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups Best-Ever Marinara or jarred sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream 
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes; add water as needed to keep the vegetables from scorching. Add the radicchio and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes, adding water as needed. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Pat the shells dry.

Fold the ricotta, 1 cup of the Fontina and the parsley into the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the eggs.

In another bowl, mix the marinara sauce with the heavy cream. Pour 1 1/2 cups into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with a slightly rounded tablespoon of the filling and nestle the shells in the sauce as close together as possible. Drizzle 1 cup of the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Fontina.

Bake the shells for about 40 minutes, until golden. Let rest for 15 minutes. Warm the remaining sauce and serve on the side.

[NOTE: I made my own marinara sauce - recipe below - because I wanted to try it. It was spectacular. But, if you are short on time, pick up a jar at the Store.]
Best-Ever Marinara 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 peeled and halved garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
One 35-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 basil sprigs 
In a large saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and crush them with the back of a spoon; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sugar and basil sprigs and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes. Discard the basil sprigs and garlic.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week and a great weekend.  If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Happy Fleet Week!

Until next time . . . Cheers!