When cooking for a large crowd, save yourself some stress, and make a casserole-style dish that can be prepped in advance and baked while the party gets going. Lasagna  and macaroni and cheese  are great ideas, but if you want something a little more unexpected, try Ina Garten's recipe for conchiglie al forno, an elegant baked pasta dish that's rounded out with radicchio, mushrooms, and a whole lot of naughty additions (think butter, four types of cheese, and lots of cream).
It's rich, hearty, and surprisingly crowd-pleasing. If you don't normally use radicchio as an ingredient, this recipe is perfect for a first-time experimentation. The salty cheese, cream, and woodsy sage tame the bitterness of the purple chicory.
- 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (1 medium head) radicchio, finely shredded
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) fontina, coarsely shredded
1/2 cup (3 ounces) gorgonzola, crumbled
2 teaspoons ricotta
6 leaves fresh sage, chopped
1 pound pasta shells
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.
- Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve for another use. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet; add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the mushrooms, radicchio, cream, cheeses, sage, and remaining salt.
- Parboil the pasta shells for 4 minutes; drain and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
- Pour the entire mixture into a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and bake until the radicchio has wilted and the shells are lightly browned in spots, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Pasta, Main Dishes
- 8-10 servings