This year I will be spending quite a bit of time in Italy, mainly because I am going to a few Italian weddings with the Man this summer. And yet it is nothing compared to the amount of travel he is doing, thank god for low cost flights!
Can’t complain though, it is a wonderful country to visit, and this year we will attend weddings in Tuscany, Sardinia and Abruzzo, all 3 lovely regions.
And the good thing is that we always get some sort of return on investment on our tix to Italy! As I think I mentioned before, whenever we go and visit my boyfriends’s family, we always come back with a suitcase full of food. This time: prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta cheese and some conchiglione (giant pasta shells).
The fresh cheese is always delicious, nothing to do with the plastic tasting stuff we get in the UK supermarkets. But even though we try to eat it fresh to get all the flavours, there is only so much cheese we can eat, and we got given tons. So I decided to make stuffed shells to use some of the ricotta.
It is not a complicated recipe, it always looks nice and it is perfect if you are having many people around the table, as you can prepare it in advance and then just whizz under the grill when ready to eat.
Ingredients: 20 giant shells (allow for a few more as some might break in the water) – 200 g ricotta – 100 g frozen branched spinach (or fresh, even better) – 400 ml good canned diced tomatoes (I use Cirio, I find the other brands too watery) – olive oil, salt and pepper
1. First, chose some good quality giant shells (or conchiglioni). Giuseppe Cocco is the reference for me. It is important to get a good brand because the shells need to stay nice and firm when you stuff them. You don’t want them falling apart either in the boiling water or when you stuff them.
2. Preheat your oven to 240C. Set a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the shells in it for 5 mn. When you take out the pasta, it should not be completely cooked but still very al dente. It makes it easier to stuff, and you will cook them again in the oven anyway.
3. While the pasta is cooking, unfreeze your branched spinach and mix well with the ricotta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Pour the can of diced tomato in a large glass dish. Spread out evenly until it lines the dish with a thin layer of sauce
5. Stuff the pasta shells with the ricotta-spinach mix by delicately placing a small tablespoon of the mix in each shell. Place each shell in the glass dish, lining them up close to each other.
6. Put in the oven for 15-20 mn or until the sides of the shells become slightly brown and crunchy.
7. To serve, place the shells in a plate, cover with one or two spoonfuls of tomato sauce, an grate some parmesan over it.