Kale, Squash & Ricotta Stuffed Lumaconi, is a dish that has beautiful layers of flavor and texture. It is taken yet to an even greater level with the addition of tomato sauce and cheese baked till those oh so wonderful edges and cheese become crispy and golden!
Song of the day: Crazy Love by Van Morrison.
Kale, Squash & Ricotta Stuffed Lumaconi, a dish that is elegant, and has the flavors and textures to carry it through. Want to have an Italian dinner or with a nice twist? Give this dish a try, it is melt-in-your-mouth good!
Kale has come to be known as a superfood, whether raw in a salad or boiled and sauteed, or combined to form the filling for this wonderful pasta, it has become one of our favorite greens that we look forward to every week. This recipe is inspired by Nicoletta's father Franco, and his courage to go beyond the traditional Italian cooking.
A few years ago I met Nicoletta's parents and fell in love with them. Their giving nature, making me feel like part of the family, and respect for food made me feel right at home. At first, I watched as Franco who does most of the cooking make wonderful Italian dishes, pasta, fish, and verdure (greens) one of his specialties. Franco has a passion for the land, working it and producing the most succulent, substantial delicious produce I have ever tasted. As time went by, I was allowed to cook. First starting with the traditional dishes, then slowly introducing different spices and ethnic dishes to the mix. I was pleasantly surprised that they were well received and appreciated, as I know the pride that is involved when talking la cucina Italiana (the Italian kitchen). It was nice to see that a store close to my inlaws carried ginger, and that Franco was quite accepting to purchase and try it. To this day it is in their fridge and I love hearing that Franco uses it quite often, and even in teas when the mighty winter bug comes to play and colds start to flair up. I think I can speak for both Nicoletta and I that when we hear anyone get inspired by what we do, it makes us feel fullfilled and happy, especially if we have inspired an old schooled Italian.
One morning while talking with her parents, I overheard the conversation of food. In particular a pasta dish Franco made. I was quite pulled in because Nicoletta was saying things like "wow" and "I am so impressed" in Italian of course. I was so curious as to hear what he had made. Nicoletta told me that her dad made these stuffed pasta shells filled with squash, spinach, and ricotta cheese and that he had used some turmeric to bring an interesting flavor twist to the mix. I was quite impressed and even commented that Franco had become quite the chef and was so happy to here that we had inspired him to think out of the box.
Nicoletta and I decided that we had to try this recipe, and knowing squash was in abundance at the farmers markets, we were excited to try this dish. Naturally, adding our own little twist to the mix! Kale instead of spinach, and buttercup squash instead of the zucca that Franco grows so well in his garden. I have also given him some good squash soup ideas to inspire him even further.
We have never used buttercup squash before and on inspiration from the girls of Sunrise Gardens we were intrigued to use it for this Kale, Squash & Ricotta Stuffed Lumaconi. We also found these lovely snail-shaped pasta at Home Sense. I love this store, it has some really good stuff, don't they look beautiful and look at that wonderful pouch, just what we need to house the incredible filling. Preparing the squash is easy, cut in half, a splash of olive oil, some seasoning of salt, pepper, turmeric, thyme, and yellow curry. Into the oven it goes and that is it. Look at the color of this buttercup squash it is so deep, I can't wait to taste it!
Kale, Squash & Ricotta Stuffed Lumaconi, here we come!
To get the creamy rich consistency we used a good quality ricotta. We find here in Edmonton the store bought ricotta is quite granular, but once in a while we stumble upon a gem that has that consistency and texture that we so love. Is it like the ricotta in Italy? No, but it is close. The brand is called Saluti which we usually find at The Italian Centre shop, but we have also found it at Safeway, and Sobeys at times. With kale blanched, and squash roasted, we are ready to pull this filling together. It looks so good and creamy, and yes I tasted it, oooh that squash is so sweet and rich, I think we need a bit more Grana Padano to balance out the flavor and the ricotta was the cream of the crop which brought all the ingredients together in a wonderful harmony.
All we need to do is slightly cook the lumaconi. You don't want to totally cook them as filling them would be a great challenge, plus if we are baking this dish in the oven it would overcook the pasta, an Italian catastrophe, OMG! The tomato sauce is made with canned D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes. I love this type of tomato it is so sweet and comes from the Napoli area close to Mount Vesuvius. I always thought that type of volcanic soil always produces the sweetest flavored tomato, kind of ironic, Alanis Morissette could have used this analogy in her song. I am so excited to put this together. I am thinking the tomato sauce will be such a nice counterbalance to the rich creamy filling and that Grana Padano will give a nice melted kick.
It looks so beautiful going into the oven and looked equally delicious and wonderful coming out. The colors so enticing and those nice baked crunchy bits are calling me. This pasta is wonderful to plate, so delicate yet so rustically elegant.
That sauce has such a rich sheen to it and with those sprigs of melted Grana has my mouth watering. Look at that filling so velvety and creamy, I can't wait, I am going in!
The aroma of the tomatoes is so acidic and sweet at the same time, and that Grana with its aged brilliance just enhances the fact. The squash with that turmeric and yellow curry wafting in like exotic dancers is so wonderful and the pasta intact and beautifully shaped. Nicoletta and I are so proud of how these have turned out!
I sink my teeth in and the nuttiness of the pasta comes through with a nice texture, firm yet not too crunchy. The sauce just bathes the pasta in such a vibrant rich way and leads you to the wonderful filling that is heaven-sent to your tongue. The squash sweet nutty almost "yammish" in its color, texture, and flavor, marries well blended with the creaminess of the ricotta. The curry and turmeric come in with this subtle yet exotic sultriness, and those notes of the Grana Padano help balance all the diverse flavors. The kale adds a beautiful earthiness to the mix and with its texture so tender and plump makes for interesting and delightful bites through in and throughout.
Italian food is about taste, texture, but more so, food for Italians is a social affair, and if you have ever been invited to an Italian family meal, you are welcomed with open arms and a mom or nonna saying "eat, eat! mangia, mangia!"
I am so grateful to my mother and father in-law, Tonina and Franco, for making me feel special and part of their lives, and also for accepting my multicultural culinary ideas. It is even more special to me that I have inspired them to experiment and live outside the box a bit when it comes to cooking. So to show our gratitude Nicoletta and I dedicate this recipe to Franco for his love of cooking and courage to live outside his norm, and also to Tonina for loving what we make and appreciating who we are!
Everyone at the table, LET'S EAT!
Song of the day: Crazy Love by Van Morrison.Print
For the squash:
- 1 buttercup squash ( or any other medium-size squash)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 small cipollini onions, halved
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp yellow curry
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ fresh cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoons e.v.o. oil
For the tomato sauce:
- 300 ml of canned San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- some freshly cracked pepper
- 1 Tbsp fresh broken basil
For the filling:
- 1 cup finely chopped cooked kale (or green of your choice like spinach, swiss chard, etc).
- 1 ½ cups roasted squash
- 1 cup ricotta
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano cheese
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup grated Grana Padano
- Cut squash in half, clean out pulp and seeds. Sprinkle with olive oil, season with turmeric, thyme, yellow curry, salt, and pepper. Place garlic and halved onions in each half.
- Place squash flesh side down ensuring garlic and onion stay in the center under the squash. Place in a 375° F oven and bake for 25 minutes or until fork tender.
- Take out of oven scoop out flesh and mash in a bowl. Set aside to cool.
- In a saucepan heat up olive oil and garlic. When garlic starts to sizzle, place tomatoes in squishing them and breaking them with your hands into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, break some basil inside. Let simmer for 20-25 minutes, take off heat and set aside.
- In a bowl combine mashed squash, chopped kale, ricotta, grated Grana Padano, olive oil, salt pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- In a large pot bring water to boil. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt and taste for saltiness.
- Place lumaconi in and cook for about 5-6 minutes (about ¾ of the suggested cooking time).
- Drain pasta and let cool a bit placing lumaconi on a baking sheet so they don't stick together.
- With a small teaspoon, scoop some of the filling and place inside the lumaconi until the cavity is filled and some filling oozes out.
- Place filled lumaconi into a greased 9'x14' baking dish. Continue this process until all the lumaconi are stuffed and the baking dish is full.
- Spoon the tomato sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with the grated Grana.
- Cover with tin foil.
- Place covered dish in 375° F oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until top becomes melted, golden and crispy on the edges
- Take out of oven and serve. Enjoy!
- You could use a piping bag to fill the pasta.
- Remember you can use any other green, provided it is cooked first.
- Also, you can use other types of squash other than spaghetti as it is more moist and could cause filling to be too runny.
- To save time you can make the tomato sauce and cook the kale as the squash is roasting, or even make the squash and kale the day before.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: Italian
When I am not cooking, I enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, writing. I have learned over the years to live in gratitude and enjoy the moment.