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.

Conchiglie al Forno With Mushrooms and Radicchio

Conchiglie al Forno With Mushrooms and Radicchio

Conchiglie al Forno With Mushrooms and Radicchio

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot.
  3. 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.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the mushrooms, radicchio, cream, cheeses, sage, and remaining salt.
  5. Parboil the pasta shells for 4 minutes; drain and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
  6. 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.