We have been posting stories, recipes, cocktails and more all year long, but we had yet to focus on the Paterfamilias, Founder and Fearless Leader the Union Family… Ryan Harms. We asked Ryan how we could get him involved and he suggested sharing a classic family recipe that he makes often with his sons, Noah and Ethan. Ryan also personally cooks and serves this dish every year to his harvest crew.
In Ryan’s own words, “I worked at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island, during the summer of 1998. This is where I learned to make grilled pizza’s and this recipe comes from my experience there. Working there was transformational for me in getting a great base of cooking. They were doing farm to table before that was even a term. George and Joan created an amazing culture that continues on today.”
This particular recipe that Ryan adopted, ‘Shells Baked with Tomato, Cream and 5 Cheeses’ makes use of a basic but delicious tomato sauce base that was used in many of the Al Forno dishes. By adding a bounty of fresh cheeses and herbs, this simple pasta dish turns into something amazing. Its an easy recipe once you get the technique down, which we will happily guide you through…
Before any of the prep begins, preheat your oven to 500 degrees and get a large pot of salted water boiling for the pasta.
Ryan specifically uses two different cans of tomatoes, one whole peeled and the other crushed. He begins by sautéing 4 cloves of garlic in a pan, and just as they start to brown, he adds a 1/2 C of chicken stock and a 1/2 C of Kings Ridge Pinot Gris.
As this cooks, Ryan’s son Noah opens the two cans of tomatoes into a large bowl, adds the garlic and liquid (once it has come to room temperature) and gently mashes it all together.
Once the sauce is well blended, Ryan adds the following cheeses:
¾ c freshly grated Pecorino Romano
¾ c coarsely shredded fontina
4 tbsp. crumbled gorgonzola
2 tbsp fresh ricotta
Keep this separate to top the dishes before baking:
2 small (4 oz. total) balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced
Then Ryan’s younger son, Ethan steps in and mixes all the cheeses as well as 2 C of heavy cream into the sauce, giving it a distinctive pink hue.
As this is being done, Ryan chops:
1 small bunch of italian parsley
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
8-10 springs of fresh thyme
This gets mixed into the sauce.
He also chops 4 scallions on a hard bias (diagonal cut) and places in ice water to keep from wilting. This will be the final garnish on the pasta.
Once all the prep is done, Ryan adds 1 pound of pasta shells to the boiling water and par cooks for five minutes. Immediately strain and add all the pasta to the sauce.
Ryan then mixes the shells until fully coated in the sauce and cheese mix. Then he scoops into a large baking dish or several small ceramic dishes for individual servings. He tops each one with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella cheese and a few small dabs of butter. Bake for 10 minutes or until the pasta starts to crisp on top.
Remove the pasta, allow to sit for 5 minutes, garnish with the fresh scallions and dig in!
The finished product is nothing short of amazing!
Everyone in the Harms family: Kathleen, baby Mia, Noah, Ryan and Ethan wish you a hearty Bon Appétit!
Photography and Text by David L. Reamer. (@dlreamer)
Recipe by Ryan Harms (@harmsryan)