Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri, comfort food at its best with loads of flavor and those crispy bits that everyone loves!
Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri, miniature version of the well-known Cannelloni with a tasty filling, and baked in the oven to create a cheesy, saucy, textured, all round goodness affair.
All you have to say is oven baked pasta, and I am in. Lasagna, pasta al forno, and these wonderful Paccheri that have so much flavor, stuffed with spinach mixed with Parmigiano, ricotta and a pinch of nutmeg.
It has been a busy winter and I would have to say being part of Food Bloggers of Canada has increased our circle of friends. After some thought and seed planting by the people at FBC, groups from all over Canada, specifically food bloggers, decided to host potluck dinners. In Edmonton and area, we have a few food bloggers and it has been wonderful getting to know each and every one of you. When thinking of what to make for the Edmonton potluck a pasta came to mind quickly and some kind of dessert a close second. Our blog is about Italian food, tradition, and great ingredients, so pasta it is and Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta stuffed Paccheri is the pasta of choice. This dish is truly Italian, usually made for large gatherings as it feeds many, and Nicoletta and I looked for the best in flavor and quality ingredients that we could find.
Let’s shop for this Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri!
Shopping list in hand and we are off, first stop The Italian Center Shop. The pasta selection is vast and many great quality pasta at that. One thing we are adamant about is using good Italian ingredients, and buying good quality pasta is important. Things to look for are Italian brand names; this paccheri have a nice texture, a bit rough to catch all the flavors going into this menagerie, a good color, and thickness to the walls as it has to hold in the filling. Next, the cheese aisle to find ricotta. Let us talk ricotta, we look for the moist and creamy, which I have to say is hard to find. We have tried many and some came close to that creamy so sweet/savory taste we have in Italy when we are there. We toss a couple of ricotta containers into the basket choosing one that we acknowledge will do the trick for this oven baked stuffed pasta. Before we leave the cheese aisle, a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano. I know Nicoletta knows her stuff here and a quick look and feel, has a piece of cheese gracing our basket, and us closer to having everything we need. Let’s get to the produce aisle and find some tender organic baby spinach, and delightfully they have it in our now somewhat full basket, along with garlic and some yellow onions and shallots. You have to understand that a trip to the Italian Center always brings you home with more than you anticipated, and an important rule, never go there hungry and shop, a basket will not do. Okay, back to shopping, need a good tomato we always look for a brand Mutti as we have found it has the most spectacular flavor, could not find it this time so the next best thing some D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes and into our basket it goes. I think that is it, let’s get rung in and see what the damage is to my pocket book.
The seasoning of the stuffing for this oven baked dish is some salt, pepper, and just a nice pinch of nutmeg, and of course extra virgin olive oil, all things we have already in our pantry. The bill is totaled and not bad considering we have two full cloth bags of groceries. Now we are set and we are so excited to get started.
First things first the sauce needs to happen and it is so easy. Olive oil in a pan, garlic de-husked and pressed releasing all its flavor into the oil as it sautés a bit. I love when I smell that garlic and olive oil, when the aroma starts to come forth, in goes the tomatoes which I pureed, capturing all that flavor and aroma of the seasoned pan. Some fresh basil, salt and pepper, the final step, and the sauce can simmer while we get the filling ready. The baby spinach washed and spun, goes into a pan with some olive oil, sauteed minced onions, and garlic. It is amazing that 3 packages of spinach only results in a bowl end result, the payoff is a wonderful flavor that will marry with the ricotta, and Parmigiano so well. The nutmeg is grated in and this mixture is mixed well and we are set.
We cooked the paccheri for a few minutes to soften them a bit but not too much as they will finish cooking in the oven. We don’t want to loose that al dente feel and taste. After I drained them, I placed them in cold water to stop the cooking and set them aside.
The sauce has reduced and the aroma is heavenly, I just want to get a piece of bread and dip it in, but better not we need lots of sauce for this dish and I grab the oven dish and spoon a good layer onto the bottom.
I know people always think how do you get the filling in. Well through trial and error, first times trying a small spoon, and realizing it was going to take longer than it took for the wheat to grow and become this pasta. Next thought piping bag, and yess! it worked fantastically, smoothly flowing and filling each paccheri with ease and within some time the paccheri are stuffed, and sitting in that wonderful sauce side by side, real troopers ready to be baked to perfection. Before that happens we need to finish this Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri.
Some more sauce on top enough to cover the pasta, and some grated Parmigiano, okay a lot of grated Parmigiano, and a dusting of breadcrumbs and this baby is ready to be baked! We prepared this in the morning and sometimes we even do it the night before. This means that all those flavors have time to mingle, and infuse.
When this oven baked paccheri are baking, this aroma emanates from the kitchen, that will get everyone hungry. You can smell that cheese melting, the tomato sauce stewing those morsels of paccheri filled with that spinach and ricotta, so moist and sealed by each other ensuring the pasta won’t be dry as it has that sauce to steam it. All baked up, nice charred crisp edges formed and just a few minutes to rest and we are ready to eat.
Potluck has commenced. For appetizer, some lovely stuffed baby potatoes made by Megan from Un Assaggio, lovely moist on the inside and crispy on the outside morsels of goodness. Just what the doctor ordered to get things off to a good start. The main, a wonderful vegetarian dish made by Cynthia from Cynful Kitchen hosting a curried soy protein along with a stupendous and flavorful steamed saffron rice with raisins in it. The sides, some lovely roasted turnips, beets, and carrots fragrantly spiced and seasoned, made by Melanie from The Nomadic Wife, and a wonderful sauteed peas and lettuce, made by Margaret from Kitchen Frau. The desserts, a dairy free chocolate mousse made also by Margaret and an incredible sugar pie that Tom, Melanie’s husband, made from a Quebec recipe given to him by his aunt.
I know you’re probably thinking, hey what happened to that Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri. We served it on its own as we would do in Italy, as the first course (primo piatto) after the appetizer. It smelled wonderful: the sauce, Parmigiano and those crispy edges offering aromas to delight the appetite. I love the flavor, the pasta with its al dente nature comes in, some crispy edges giving nutty flavors, bathed in that rich sweet acidic tomato sauce is heaven to my tongue. The filling moist with the spinach so beautifully elevated with the creaminess of the ricotta and Parmigiano. Hints of nutmeg coming through with its slight spice, and that top, the Parmigiano wonderfully melted and crispy with the aid of the breadcrumbs giving us texture and poise. It was a lovely evening being with like minded people, their families, and Arthur a most social well behaved baby with an appetite for pasta, what’s not to love about that! Next time you are having a family gathering or have been invited or are hosting a potluck, try our Oven Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Paccheri. Sure to be a hit and remembered!
Song of the day: “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M.
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