Baked, stuffed shells with Provola, Ricotta and Spinach, are perfect for a Sunday lunch. Creamy, saucy, cheesy and a tad bit crispy on the edges will please everybody.
It's Sunday, at lunch time. The house is filling with chats, laughter, clinging, banging. It is a modest apartment in Rome, old furniture standing still, familiar faces bustling around, every gesture is measured and experienced. It feels cozy and soothing, having a standpoint, knowing that every Sunday is going to be a replay of the previous one, with only the menu changing, maybe, or maybe not. We're at my Grannies's place, and Sunday calls for a family gathering. You wouldn't know that such a small place could host so many people around a table. An oval table, with a veined marble top, and chairs tall and uncomfortable, my grandpa sitting at the head of the table. Voices raising and mingling, one overlapping the other, in a cahotic chorus that only at an Italian table you can hear.
My grandma made her famous fettuccine, and since she loves me to pieces, the sauce can never be a meat sauce, but a tasty, thick and flavorful tomato sauce with a couple poached eggs or a vegetarian ragù with sweet peas. And everybody is fine with it. Plates are filled, sauce is staining the embroidered tablecloth, wine is poured in unmatching glasses. I am the recipient of one of the eggs in the sauce, for everybody else there is going to be Pollo con patate al forno (roasted chicken and potatoes in plenty of herbs, sea salt and puddles of olive oil), or Fettine panate (beef or veal cutlets, perfectly thin and crispy). Buttery sweet peas and cicoria fight for their place on the plate, voices louder than when we started. Then, as conversations come to an end and digestion begins, moods relax and unwind. And my nonna's energy cover us all with her grace.
What beautiful, tender memories, so many, and still so vivid.
Fast forwarding to another Sunday, my grandma is no longer with us, but my grandpa is, at the venerable age of 95, and it is today, our "on duty" Sunday to cook and spend time with him. I told my mother that I'm making Baked "Conchiglioni" with Provola, Ricotta and Spinach, and this dish is especially for him, who is a true ricotta lover. Well, in my family we all share that love, whether it is cow, sheep, or buffalo ricotta, sheep being smoother and creamier and therefore an all time favorite.
I've been using ricotta cheese a lot, lately: in a loaf, a cheese cake, and now in this lovely flavorful baked pasta. The quality of the ricotta that I find when I'm in Italy is unbelievable: organic, fresh, silky and velvety, which I miss dearly when I'm in Canada.
Since this pasta dish is quite lengthy, I started the day before washing and blanching the spinach, and making the tomato sauce (sugo). The sauce is a simple and tasty, basil and garlic tomato sauce, and the tomatoes are my parents' jarred tomatoes. The conchiglioni (large shells) are of a wonderful quality, Gragnano Pasta, and the cheeses that I'm using are ricotta, parmigiano and provola (not the smoked one), but you if you don't find provola you can opt for scamorza or caciocavallo or any other cheese you like. Blend the ricotta, the provola and the spinach together with salt and pepper in a small bowl, and cook your pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Try to cook it for less minutes than the recommended time you find on the package, because the pasta will keep cooking in the oven. Do not stop the cooking time by putting the drained pasta under running water: you'll remove all the gluten, as well as the flavor, and the pasta shells will stick to one another. I placed them gently on a cleaned dish towel. Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture (I used a teaspoon, but you can use a piping bag, too) and align them on a baking sheet with tomato sauce at the bottom. Cover with more sauce on top, dust generously with grated parmigiano and provola and bake in the preheated oven.
The result is a pasta dish that will please everybody. Creamy, saucy, cheesy and a tad bit crispy on the edges. Those are my favorite parts, the crispy edges, in all my oven baked pasta; that's why I make sure that if I cover the baking dish with foil paper at the beginning, I remove it in time to allow the pasta to get crispier and the cheese to melt.
Baked "Conchiglioni" with Provola, Ricotta and Spinach is perfect for a Sunday lunch, to share with the ones you love. We had a beautiful time with my grandpa who enjoyed the pasta immensely.
Song of the day: "Take me Home" by Jess Glynne.Print
- 350 g Conchiglioni pasta
- 500 g ricotta
- 150 g provola
- 50 g parmigiano reggiano
- 300 g spinach, cleaned, boiled, drained and chopped
- 800 g San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 little onion, chopped
- 2 basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the tomato sauce by sautéeing in a pan the finely chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil over low flame, add the puréed tomatoes, season with salt, and cook for about 30 minutes. Then add the fresh basil.
- Boil the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water for half way through cooking. Drain and put it to dry on a dish towel. Never cool off the pasta under running water because you will lose all its flavor and it will get sticky.
- In a bowl, prepare the filling by mixing the ricotta with the provola, cut into cubes, the boiled spinach, squeezed and chopped, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- With the help of a piping bag or using a spoon, stuff the conchiglioni with the ricotta mixture.
- Pour some tomato sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, align the pasta with the filling facing top and then pour the sauce generously over the pasta.
- Finish by sprinkling plenty of Parmigiano on the top.
- Bake at 350° F for about 30 minutes, the first 15 minutes cover the pan with aluminum foil, then remove it and continue cooking in order to brown the top slightly and melt the cheese.
- Serving Size: 6-8 servings
Ricetta in Italiano:Print
- 350 g di Conchiglioni
- 500 g di ricotta di pecora (o altra che volete)
- 150 g di provola fresca
- 300 g circa di spinaci lessati, strizzati e tagliuzzati
- 50 g di parmigiano reggiano
- 800 g di polpa di pomodoro (o pomodori San Marzano in scatola, da passare al passaverdura)
- olio extra vergine d’oliva
- 1 cipolla piccola
- olio e.v.o.
- sale e pepe q.b.
- Preparate il sugo di pomodoro facendo soffriggere la cipolla tagliata finissima nell’olio a fiamma dolce in una casseruola, aggiungete i pomodori passati al passaverdura o la polpa di pomodoro. Regolate di sale, e proseguite la cottura a pentola coperta per circa 30 minuti. A fine cottura aggiungete il basilico fresco o secco.
- Lessate la pasta in abbondante acqua bollente e salata per metà cottura. Scolatela e mettetela ad asciugare su di un canovaccio da cucina.
- In una ciotola preparate il ripieno mescolando la ricotta con la provola tagliata a cubetti piccoli, gli spinaci lessati, strizzati e tagliuzzati, sale e pepe.
- Farcite i conchiglioni con un cucchiaino.
- Mettete un po’ di sugo di pomodoro sul fondo di una pirofila e adagiate sopra la pasta ben allineata, completate versando sopra un altro po’ di sugo e abbondante parmigiano reggiano.
- Infornate a 180° per circa 30 minuti, i primi 15 minuti coprite la teglia con un foglio di alluminio poi scoprite e proseguite la cottura in modo da far gratinare leggermente la pasta.
Se avanzano, riporre in frigorifero e riscaldare in forno. Saranno ancora ottimi.
- Serving Size: Serve 6 persone
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