Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shells

We’ve been watching the World Cup non-stop since it started last week. I’m beginning to have dreams about it, no kidding. It’s not that S is such a football fanatic that he makes me watch every game, it’s that we are both excited to watch. The matches are so damn good.




When it is at the level of the World or European Cup, then football is impressive and skillful and you can witness true magicians of the sport doing their thing. I am quite the fan!




The Netherlands has already won two matches but my country’s team, Greece, lost unfortunately (yet understandably). I was annoyed and bummed out about it, however tonight they’re playing again so let’s hope for the best.




Apart from all the football watching, working, daydreaming about our holidays and life in general (I tend to do that often), I have been doing some cooking as well. Mostly easy savory dishes and desserts since I’m pressed for time, nevertheless a couple of days ago I made one of S’s favorite dishes that’s a little more elaborate.




A dish of stuffed jumbo pasta shells with fresh spinach, feta, ricotta and parmesan, baked in the oven with a tomato sauce.




It is a stunning dish both visually and taste-wise. The combination of colors and flavors is irresistible in its simplicity and frankly, it’s a classic; slightly acidic, full-of-iron flavor of the spinach, saltiness of the cheeses each with its own unique character, sweetness of the vibrant tomato sauce.




A perfect dish for a dinner with friends, especially for those who are vegetarians (you know who I'm talking about), or for a Sunday lunch with family.









Pasta shells with spinach, feta and ricotta

If you can get your hands on the fresh Greek cheese called anthotyro, do use it instead of the ricotta.

Most of the times, I use fresh spinach to make the filling but frozen and thawed (and squeezed off of its juices) spinach works quite well too.

You can use the classic pasta shells (conchglioni) that I used, or lumaconi.




Yield: about 32 shells / enough for 6 people

Ingredients
250 g jumbo pasta shells (about 35 shells because some of them might break)

for the filling
500 g fresh, trimmed spinach leaves (you should have about 230 g after cooking and squeezing out the juices)
250 g fresh ricotta, crumbled
200 g feta, grated
50 g parmesan, grated
1 medium-sized egg
Freshly ground black pepper

for the sauce
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400 g canned chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp tomato paste
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
250 ml hot water

20 g parmesan for grating over the top of the shells before baking

Special equipment: colander, box grater, rasp grater, large baking dish (I use a 36cm x 25cm ceramic baking dish), aluminum foil


Preparation
Fill a large pan with water by ¾ and boil over high heat.
Rinse well the spinach leaves, drain them in a colander and add them to the boiling water. Boil the spinach for 4 minutes without putting the lid on the pan. Drain in the colander and leave to cool. Before using in the filling, squeeze well the spinach between your hands so that you get rid of the liquid. Then chop with a knife.

for the sauce
In a medium-sized saucepan, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until they soften and become translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the water and stir again. Let it come to the boil and turn heat down to low. Put on the lid and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.

for the pasta
In the meantime, boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat and add the pasta shells. Cook 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. They need to be al dente (firm but not hard) otherwise they will break or collapse and you won’t be able to fill them. Drain the pasta in a colander, discarding the water, and immediately rinse them under cold running water until completely cool. This will stop the cooking process and will also make them not stick to one another. While you are rinsing them, gently separate those that tend to stick together or inside one another.

for the filling
Add the squeezed and chopped spinach in a medium-sized bowl, along with the cheeses, the egg and a little black pepper. Mix well with a spoon. Don’t be tempted to add salt to the filling. The cheeses are already salty enough.


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Take your baking dish and add half of the tomato sauce, spreading it evenly around the bottom of the dish with the back of a spoon.
Fill each pasta shell with about 1½ tsp of the filling and immediately place the shells upright in the baking dish. Continue making the rest and adding them to the dish until you have no more filling left.
Pour the rest of the tomato sauce between and over the stuffed pasta shells. Grate the parmesan (20 g) on top of the shells.


Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil and place on the lower rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the foil, transfer dish to the middle rack and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.

They are best eaten the day you bake them but the next day they are also good. Keep in mind though that they will be somewhat dry.




17 comments:

  1. I haven't watched any World Cup games yet and I think I need to change that! Perhaps with this beautiful dinner sitting in front of me :)

    Sues

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  2. These look fantastic. I am also gorging on football but in the southern hemisphere this means lots of missed sleep. We do however have some games at 8am which is a completely civilized start time compared to the 2am kick off. I'll have to make these for a quick Sunday supper soon.

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  3. I love stuffed shells,Magda - but have never had them stuffed with spinach! I have some shells at home, and will pick up sine spinach at the market

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  4. Accidental Send! Will get done spinach at the farmers market - Subday supper this weekend! xo, David

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  5. I stopped by looking for some dinner inspiration and you've come up trumps Magda! I've not made stuffed shells for ages and I think I have some lurking in the cupboard. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoyed them if you made these after all Tamsin :)

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  6. Our Dutch/American blend household is what I call "soccer central"...we watch avidly and of course Wouter is so please about The Netherland's team. USA plays this afternoon!
    Your filled shells are just beautiful and I need to make something like this that can be prepared ahead of time for eating during one of the many games. Thanks for sharing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Teresa! I wouldn't say these are good to be cooked ahead of time as they are best eaten straight out of the oven but it's a great idea to eat them while watching football!

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    ReplyDelete
  8. Magda! Congratulations on Greece's big win last night!
    We're here on Folegandros, just settling in to a dreamy vacation on our favorite island, savoring the sun and clean air and all of the delicious Greek food of course. And I'm thinking of you!
    Your stuffed shells looks relish - the perfect food to eat while enjoying the World Cup and hopefully another victory for Greece:)
    xoxo
    E

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    Replies
    1. Hi Erin! You're in Greece?? I hope you have a wonderful time!! enjoy the sun and the sea and the food! xoxo

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  9. I just found your blog. Yea for me! The recipes look great and I look forward to trying them.

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  10. This recipe is perfect. I have cooked it before but never mixing feta with the ricotta. Need to try that :)

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  11. Hi Magda,

    I made this recipe over a year ago and we loved it to bits. I just remembered about it and have shared it with the Weightwatchers community with 2 small tweaks. I look forward to making it again soon and want to thank you for sharing the recipe :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mettsen. I'm glad you liked it! Where did you share it?

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  12. Hi Magda,

    I shared it on a chat app only accessible to members of Dutch Weightwatchers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know Mettsen. :)

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