Friday, March 02, 2007

Stuffed Conchiglioni

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

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...

stuffed Conchiglioni

Conchiglioni Ripieni/Stuffed Conchiglioni
[Serves 2]

8 Conchiglioni (large pasta shells)
Filling:
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
snipped chives
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.

stuffed shells

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.

serving

You could serve this with a simple salad on the side or maybe just come crusty bread.

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14 comments:

  1. Haalo, this is amazing! May I ask what type of ricotta should I get? And where can I get it? I normally buy fresh ricotta from the deli, is it ok to use in your recipe? TIA.

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  2. Thanks Anh - gosh I left that out in the post so I'll add it later. The deli ricotta is the one to use in fact unless you make your own, it's the only one to use. It's the ricotta in those plastic tubes that looks like I don't know what should be avoided.

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  3. You're not going to believe this, but I wrote a piece on stuffed lumaconi yesterday, with a photo of four shells just like yours, followed by instructions on the filling and a photo of the stuffed pasta. I'm planning to check it over and post it when I get back from college - got to rush off now. I'm now getting completely freaked by this.

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  4. We make these too but our recipe has an egg mixed into the ricotta mixture. You are right not to overfill the mixture, especially with the egg added because they puff up and you'll lose the filling mixture...what a mess.

    This is such a substantial dish but very light at the same time.

    I have also made small trays and frozen them,baked. It's a nice standby to have after a busy day with little time to cook.

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  5. Haalo,

    These are wonderful!

    I love conchiglionis, sometime I have them for lunch in a place near the office - but they are not as great as these, that's for sure!

    I should make them at home, since I love this dish.

    Oh, and your tomato sauce sounds terrific - I've made tomato sauce so many times in my life, but have never used celery or carrot. I'll give it a try!

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  6. Trig - take a deep breath and relax. I'll just have to think of something a bit different :)

    It's real comfort food isn't it Karen? Just like lasagne it's better the next day and really does well being frozen.

    Thanks Patricia - you can really stuff these shells with anything and they look fantastic.

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  7. Shell shaped pasta is my favourite, I love all the sauce that gets trapped inside.

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  8. No need for the deep breath, but I'm amazed all the same at how often you and I seem to think on the same lines. I hadn't seen the Presto Pasta Nights posting. Are you sure you haven't hacked into my test site where I lay out my postings? Anyway, where we part is that you went for an elegant and traditional Italian recipe whereas I tried something very different. It's that ability for food to be so varied that makes it truly great.

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  9. Haalo, I love the dish and would have made my crab ricotta cannelloni in giant shells myself. Unfortunately, I didn't have any in my pantry, the weather was too wintery and I have a bad cold.

    Thanks so much for sharing, it sounds awesome and photos are gorgeous.

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  10. what a wonderful bowl of comfort food! I could easily devour the lot!

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  11. Yum! I'm putting this on my list to make!

    Paz

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  12. Hi Brilynn - the tube pasta does similiar things, you end up with some that have a secret stash of sauce

    Thank heavens that food keeps evolving Trig.

    Thanks Ruth and congrats on the event - the crab sounds so delish!

    Thanks Truffle - it's honest food.

    Thanks Paz - hope you enjoy them!

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  13. They look utterly amazing! I just showed my cousin this post to show her how well Nikons *can* photograph and she just asked me if I could make this for her ;)

    I can try, but I doubt mine will look even half as appetizing!

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  14. Thanks Ellie - I'm sure yours will turn out brilliantly and best of all there's no volcanic sugars in this!

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