The lovely Ruth from Once Upon a Feast has started a new weekly event to celebrate pasta called Presto Pasta Nights. Now coming from an Italian family this is certainly one food item that is close to my heart.
Since it's Friday and it is lent and even though it's no longer mandatory to abstain from meat on Friday, I'll be making something that would satisfy the restrictions and more importantly, make my mother happy.
I'll be using these giant pasta shells called Conchiglioni
and stuffing them with a simple ricotta based mixture. I've then topped them with my simple but oh-so-tasty tomato based sauce and a little extra Parmigiano before baking them in the oven.
I don't know, but somehow I don't feel like I'm giving anything up eating these...
Conchiglioni Ripieni/Stuffed Conchiglioni
8 Conchiglioni (large pasta shells)
150 grams ricotta (you cannot use the supermarket variety, it's too soft - find a deli and buy a piece cut from the traditional basked pressed rounds)
15 grams grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and freshly ground white pepper
Sugo di Pomodori/Tomato Sauce
1 medium red onion, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
3 stalks parsley, stalks chopped finely, leaves roughly sliced
1 can diced Italian tomatoes, or use diced ripe Roma tomatoes if in season
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
You need to cook the shells until almost cooked - it's good to leave a little bite in the pasta as it will continue cooking in the oven and needs to be firm enough not to break when filling. When they are cooked, drain and allow to cool. There's no need to be adding oil to the cooked pasta just separate them and they won't stick.
Make the filling:
Place the ricotta and Parmigiano into a bowl and stir well to amalgamate. Add the chopped chives and mix through - taste and then season with salt and white pepper.
Make the Sugo:
This is my never fail sauce that for something that only has a few ingredients has amazing depth of flavour.
Heat a good dollop of olive oil in a deep sided pan and then add the onions, carrot, celery and parsley stalks - the mix needs to sizzle when it hits the oil, this is the key to the flavour development. The vegetables have to sauté and not stew. This is also something that does take a little time - the mix will soften and caramelise and you'll notice a wonderful aroma coming from the pan. This should take about 15 minutes.
Now add the canned or fresh tomatoes, increase the heat slightly to keep the mix bubbling. Add salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté this for 5 minutes before turning the heat down slightly and allowing the mix to cook down and the excess water to evaporate. The flavour of the tomatoes will intensify and the mixture thicken and darken, becoming wonderfully rich. Toss in the chopped parsley leaves at the end of the cooking process.
Now while you are making the Sugo you will have boiled and cooled the shells and made the filling.
Assemble the dish:
Loosely fill the shells with the ricotta mixture - don't overfill or press down too tightly or the shells might burst. Less is very often more.
I've used terracotta oven proof dishes for this dish.
Spoon a little of the Sugo over the bottom of the baking dish and nestle the stuffed shells into this - once again don't use too much sauce.
Then spoon a little more sauce over each stuffed shells, followed by a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano.
Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for about 20 minutes or until the shells are heated through.
Add a little more parmigiano before serving - and serve at once.
You could serve this with a simple salad on the side or maybe just come crusty bread.
Tagged with Pasta Presto Nights