As you may or may not know I was once a long term vegetarian, and even though my days of meat deprivation are since long gone, there are a few staple recipes that I still love more than any meat dish - this being one of them! Something about cheesy baked pasta dishes seems to delight even the most dedicated carnivore. Be certain to make an ample amount - I have never had anyone turn down a second helping!
300g conchiglioni (large pasta shells)
500g fresh ricotta
1 bunch silverbeet or spinach, rinsed & stalks removed
1 cup (packed) grated parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, crushed
700g tomato puree
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
Sea salt & ground pepper
This is a relatively simple recipe, though you will need to dirty up a few pots and get everything going at once when you start... Firstly, preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Next, bring a large pot of water to the boil, and cook the pasta shells until tender. Whilst your shells are bubbling away, place your rinsed spinach in a steamer or boiling water and cook until just softened and bright green.
In a mixing bowl, combine the fresh ricotta with 1/2 the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Then, drain your cooked spinach, squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove any excess water (be careful not to burn yourself in the process!), chop finely and then add to the ricotta mix, stirring well to combine.
Grab a saucepan and heat some olive oil and fry off the garlic until fragrant. Pour in the tomato puree, and sprinkle in the dried herbs, along with salt and pepper to taste. Allow this to simmer for 5 minutes, then pour into a large baking dish.
Once your pasta shells are drained and cool enough to handle, simply fill each with a spoonful of the spinach and ricotta mix, and place in the baking dish with the tomato sauce. Repeat until you run out of ricotta, then sprinkle the whole lot with the remaining parmesan.
Bake the shells until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown and crisp. Serve with a simple garden salad and of course, a loaf of garlic bread.