January 20, 2011

Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan

Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

We frequently entertain, whether it be family or friends, and my children are trained like Pavlovian Dogs to always ask "who's coming over?" when the weekend hits. Friends often comment or ask "How can you entertain so much? Isn't it a lot of work? You must be Martha Stewart!"

No, I'm not Martha Stewart. Trust me. I want to be the hostess with the mostess but I like to cut corners wherever I can. Don't you?

The challenge with frequent entertaining is coming up with something different AND easy. I do not want lots of prep work or complex dishes. I've spent one too many times in the kitchen, punching hours on the prepping and cooking time-clock, when I really need not be. I don't want to be chained to the stove or stuck away from guests. Get-togethers, for me, is always about people first and then the food second. When it's not, and people go home, I always feel like I missed out on everyone.

A short while ago, I made the "mistake" of walking down the dry pasta aisle at the Italian Center. I thought I could be tough this time and just look, since I usually avoid that aisle, but I ended up filling my home pantry with every different shape, size and color of pasta. It's an addiction, I'm sure. Pasta-shopa-holic. I'm like a kid in the candy store, my eyes get big and I want it. And I want it ALL!

The pasta shells I used are called conchiglioni pasta. (try saying that 3 times!) They are, as the name implies, conch-like pasta shells. They are large in size and fantastic for filling up with any mixture variation you can think of.

Everyone made comments on the dish. "Looks pretty". "Great idea". "Tastes really good". It is a very visually pleasing dish and not a lot of work. Spend time cleaning the kitchen up instead or fixing your hair before folks arrive! Go ahead, this will be our secret and you too can be called Martha :)

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Looking to Simplify: I sauteed up my own fresh spinach but you may use frozen chopped spinach instead. Defrost, drain and use in place of sauteed spinach.

Even Simpler: All the prep time can be done well ahead of time. Prep the dish in the morning or even the night before. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Allow to warm up before baking and remove plastic wrap before baking.

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Stuffed Conchiglioni Pasta Shells with Spinach, Ricotta and Parmesan
serves 6 as a main, about 10-12 as a side

about 30 large pasta shells, cooked as per bag instructions
1 bag (312g/11 oz) fresh spinach
2 tbsp butter
1 container (425g/15 oz) ricotta cheese
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
about 2 cups tomato or pasta sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute the fresh spinach with butter over medium heat. Stir frequently, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Work in batches, if needed. Place all the spinach into a bowl.

Mix in the ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Add enough salt and pepper to taste.

In a large oven proof dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce, about 1 cup worth.

Spoon the ricotta-spinach filling into each pasta shell. Arrange the filled pasta shells onto the tomato sauce. Either drizzle the remainder of the tomato sauce or place a spoonful atop of each shell. Add your desired amount of shredded cheese on top of the shells.

Cover with aluminum foil and place into the 375F oven to bake for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly and serve.

9 comments:

lequan said...

This looks really great Maki! I know it's warmer today, but I'd still love a piping hot dish of this right now (just got back in from shoveling). Pasta and ooey gooey cheese is such comfort food. Best thing about this, it's healthy! Thanks for your lovely recipe.

Maki said...

Warmer! Well, someone has gotten used to the cold here :) hahaha.

Yes, pasta and cheese... definite comfort food.

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

Love the ideas on how to make this easy dish even easier. It does look really good!

Maki said...

Thanks Lisa. I'm always looking for ways to make cooking/baking easier so I thought I'd share them when I can.

A Canadian Foodie said...

I remember the days when I entertained every weekend. I can't handle that anymore... but when you have young children and are already multi-tasking to the hilt, what is one more dinner on your list, EH? I am pretty sure you are the consummate entertainer, Maki.
I do love pasta dishes. This one looks really flavourful, colourful and nutritious, too. One that certainly the kids would also dig into!
YUM.
:)
Valerie

Maki said...

Oh Valerie. My kids wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole.

"What's that green?"

"Why is there so much red sauce?"

"Yucky"

hehe

cookbookcooks said...

One word

YUM

I think I will make this. Even though it has warmed up this is comfort food at its best

karen said...

I'm pretty late to this conversation, I was just looking for an idea for proportions that others use to make this dish. I've been making it since I was a teen, and have made it both as a baked dish and in a chinese hot pot on a stove when I was homesick and desperate this one time when I lived in Hong Kong. It turned out surprisingly well!

Anyway, I always just mix the stuff up and hope for the best ... so I'm going to try your recipe for the cheeses/spinach mixture this time.

We often make a pork sausage tomato sauce and put that in the shells first, and then pipe the cheese mix on top then proceed more or less as you do to bake it. Ours resembles lasagna a bit more (if I were to take a picture of it) but one day I might go for this more elegant presentation.

The reason I am commenting is to tell you that these freeze amazingly well -- do it like berries on a cookie sheet so that you can take out a precise amount for the number of people you have over. Today my kids and I are prepping to polish of six boxes of the shells ... some for us, some for a new mom who also runs a daycare, and some for a friend who's going to have a little surgery tomorrow. Her three kids are big fans of the dish!

So thanks for your recipe ... sometimes I think it really works wonders for an approximate cook such as myself to practice others quantities ... brings me back into realistic check. Because I'm using your recipe, I figure you're sprinkling some magic on my friends as well, so thanks!

Maki said...

I have never thought to freeze them but that would be great!

I'm an approximate cook too but for the blog I try to bring proper volumes/quantities. A lil bit of this and a lil bit of that doesn't translate well :) hahaha

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