To makes this clear at the beginning: If it comes to pasta recipes, especially filled and baked pasta I am far away from being objective. And if then ricotta is playing a star role, there isn’t a big chance for me not to simply adore this dish. Pasta shells stuffed with herbed ricotta, sprinkled with tomato sauce and served out of the oven? – Heidi, I am in!
So, if you found yourself thinking (or shouting out) “Yes!”, “Ohhh yes!”, “That’s me!” while reading these few lines, you will as well be very likely to love this pasta. It is a real comfy food!
Actually I can observe, that a lot of people – passionate foodies as well – try to keep away from making and/or filling pasta themselves. Probably they’re discouraged by the time they have to invest in one meal. For me, it is totally different: For me, this time is pure contemplation, an excercise of meditation, when you can let your mind wander, be concentrated on what you’re doing and at the same time be concentrated on yourself, freed from distraction. A kind of “Me, myself and I”…
These ricotta stuffed shells are as well a good choice to serve guests: On the one hand, it surely will make some impression on all those guests, that don’t have the patience to master the task of stuffing pasta. “How long did it take you to fill all those little shells?!” On the other hand, it is really good to be prepared in advance and when it rings on your door, you can be a relaxed hostess or host. You don’t want to stand in the kitchen most of the evening and your guests probably would like to see you as well…
Ricotta stuffed shells
Adapted and modified from 101 cookbooks – I reduced the amount of ricotta, but not the number of shells. Heidi sayes her recipe to serve 4-6 persons. With my modifications, I would say about 25 shells – you always loose some during the cooking process – feed 2-3 persons, unless you want to serve it as a starter, an italian secondi
1 small can tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 teaspoon mixed italian herbs, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt, fresh ground pepper
250 g ricotta cheese, 150 g blanched and chopped spinach, 4 chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, zest of 1/2 lemon, dash of nutmeg, salt, fresh ground pepper
[optional: 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs]
30 dried pasta shells
Cook the shells in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. They shouldn’t be cooked completely, just to the point where they’re flexible enough to be filled. Drain and let them cool down a bit.
To make the sauce sauté onions and garlic at medium heat in olive oil for a minute. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and spice. Simmer for about ten minutes and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 180° C. For the filling mix all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Just leave some chopped scallions over for decoration.
Oil a 33 x 23 cm baking pan and spread 3/4 of the sauce across the bottom of it. Carefully fill each shell with filling and arrange the shells in a single layer in the pan. (I got 26 shells filled.) Drizzle the rest of the sauce over them, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover after 15 minutes, top shells with breadcrumbs and put baking pan back into the oven.
Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve hot.