Ricotta and spinach stuffed shells
Twice during our stay in Italy I had stuffed and baked pasta for an elegant first course, and both times it happened in spa resorts: once at Castelo di Velona in Montalcino and next at the Adler Thermae Spa in Bagno Vignoni. Those dishes stuck in my mind as memorable and today I thought I’d try and create something similar at home. Aside from the wonderful flavours, I like the minimalist approach in terms of quantity and presentation. See images below.
I don’t remember exactly what the pasta was filled with at Castelo di Velona but the it was tube shaped and had delicious crisp bread crumbs over. At the Adler it was shells stuffed with courgettes and aubergines (zucchini and eggplant) and served over a light buffalo mozzarella cream. Oh, I wish I was back there right now.
Today I used medium size shells and filled them with a mixture of ricotta, spinach and parmesan with a little boursin I had lingering in the fridge. To serve I floated them on a cream sauce into which I melted shredded parmesan. For us this was main course, together with a chopped vegetables salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette. I can think of all kinds of fillings for this type of dish, depending on the season and this would be good also served with tomato or roasted pepper sauce instead of the cream.
12 medium pasta shells
1 container ricotta
1/2 pepper Boursin cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup or so grated mozzarella for topping
1 cup cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Place the spinach in microwavable dish and microwave just until wilted. Squeeze out excess liquid and chop finely.
Combine the filling ingredients together with the spinach.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt.
Add pasta and cook until barely al dente, according to package directions. Do not overcook.
While the pasta is cooking bring the cream and cheese to a simmer until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. If it is too thick you can thin it out with more cream or water.
When the shells are cooked, drain and then using a spoon fill each shell to the top, then sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella.
Arrange the shells on a baking pan and bake in a 400°F oven until lightly crisp and golden on top.
To serve, spoon some of the sauce on the bottom of the plates (use shallow bowls) and lay the cooked shells on top.
Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.