Friday, April 12, 2013

Pasta Shells Stuffed with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Spinach

Stuffed pasta shells have always intrigued me. I could never figure out why people would bother filling bits of pasta with stuff. After some research I realised that this was an ingenious way to combine two different pasta sauces or flavours together and create a plate of divine, cheesy, tomato-ey pasta. I also figured that if spaghetti with a spoon of cheese sauce and a spoon of bolognaise all on one plate is AWESOME, than this must be the same type of awesome, except fancier. And it really is. I looked around for inspiration and finally came up with this recipe. You can make it vegetarian, just leave out the lamb mince. I promise, this is worth the effort! I obviously made plenty because I thought that no way in hell I would have had enough to eat after about 8 of these. However I did... So I would say this recipe is enough for 3-4 people counting about 10 pastashells each.


What do you need?

For the filling
- a regular sized pot of ricotta cream
- a bag of -+200g of grated mozzarella
- 250g of fresh spinach cooked in some olive oil until reduced and cut up
- 40 pastashells (and a couple more just in case)
- salt & pepper
- 1 egg

For the tomato sauce
- 200g of lamb mince (optional)
- 2 cans of chunky tomato sauce
- 1 heaped tsp of tomato concentrate
- salt & pepper
- a medium onion, chopped finely
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- some sugar

- some chives as decoration (optional)

What do you need to do?

First of all, partially cook the pasta by deducing 4 minutes off the actual "al dente" time. If they need 10 minutes until al dente, cook them for 6 for example. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool.
To make the stuffing, simply combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and spinach. Whisk in the egg. Season well so it won't become bland.


Then take out your oven dish, grease it up with some olive oil and a piece of kitchen roll so the pastashells won't stick to it. Start filling your shells, placing them open side up in the dish next to each other. To fill them, simply use a teaspoon and add about a teaspoon of the filling in each shell.


At this point, pre-heat your oven at about 180°C.

Finally you need to make the tomato sauce, which is very simple. Just soften the onions and garlic in a pan with some olive oil. If you like you can add a touch of chili by adding some chili powder or dried chili flakes. Next, add the mince, if using, and brown while breaking it into pieces. If you don't have the energy to break it up with your wooden spoon, grab a soft plastic whisk and squash the meat with it. Don't use a metal one as it might scratch the pan!


Finally add the remaining ingredients such as the tomatoes, the concentrate, sugar, salt and pepper (the last three depending on how you like your tomato sauce seasoned). Leave to simmer for 10 minutes on a gentle heat and then carefully spoon it over the shells.

Then pop the entire dish into the oven and wait patiently for 25-30 minutes. You can check from time to time and if needed, add a little water in the dish so everything cooks nicely.

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