A delicious Italian inspired comfort food.
Cook the shells until they are soft but still slightly firm. Drain, saving 3 tablespoons of the water. Toss lightly with oil and set aside to cool.
Using a mortar and pestal, crush the fennel seeds.
In the mean time, brown the sausage in a heavy skillet. Add the onion, garlic, crushed fennel seed and 3 Tablespoons of the water from the pasta. Simmer until the onions and garlic are soft.
Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir the ricota, 1/4 cup parmesan and 1 Tablespoon minced basil.
Gently stuff each shell with the mixture and place them, open side up, in a large baking pan.
Top the shells with the canned tomatoes, mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan.
Bake at 350° for abut 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
Serve hot garnished with a little more parm, some pine nuts and basil.
To toast pine nuts, heat a heavy, cast iron skillet dry. Toss in the nuts and shake the pan. Continue gently shaking the pan over the heat until the nuts become fragrant and are lightly browned.