I have a lot of love for unfashionable foods. There’s a Delia Smith rice salad recipe from the ’90’s, for example, that I adore; it includes tinned tuna, diced red peppers and an actual vinaigrette dressing on the rice. I know. Prawn cocktail is another excellent example, as are steak slice, cod in parsley sauce or corned beef and pickle sandwiches.
I feel like gigantic stuffed pasta is going the way of rice salad. These pasta shells are something I remember seeing often on US blogs around 10 years ago, and this recipe does feel very American somehow. The fact that it’s slightly dated just makes me love it more.
I wrote recently that spinach is one of my favourite vegetables and my mate texted me all like, ‘f*cking SPINACH?!’ and I said yeah.. before I realised that it’s only one of my favourite vegetables when it’s mixed with either white cheese in a pie/borek or with copious amounts of ricotta for pasta. And here we are.
The stuffed shells are sitting in a rich and sweet but actually quite basic bitch tomato sauce that’s really easy to make, and I ramped up the excitement a little bit by adding an anchovy crumb on top. More carbs = more fun.
Conchiglioni Rigati Stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta Recipe
200g conchiglioni rigati (you’ll need around 20 shells but cook a few extra in case they break)
600g spinach, washed
250g ricotta (get the best quality you can find)
225g sourdough breadcrumbs
50g tin anchovies in oil
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 large glass red wine
3 tins chopped tomatoes (again, quality matters here)
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and soften the onion gently without colouring for around 10 minutes. Add the wine and let it be absorbed, stirring it to prevent sticking. Add the garlic and let it cook, stirring, for a minute or so.
Pour in the tomatoes, add some salt and pepper then put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes covered. Take the lid off and reduce by 1/4.
Make the anchovy crumb by melting the anchovies in their oil in a frying pan. Add the crumbs and fry, stirring, until crisp but not too golden (they will carry on toasting in the oven).
Cook the pasta shells until they are halfway cooked – they still need to be quite hard as they’re going to carry on cooking in the oven. Drain and run them under cold water to cool them down.
Put the washed spinach into a pan over a low heat with a lid on and let it wilt down (you’ll probably need to do this in two batches). Run it under cold water to cool it down, then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can, using your hands. Roughly chop the spinach then mix it with the ricotta and lemon zest, plus some salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
When the tomato sauce is ready, add it to a large dish or roasting tray. Stuff the spinach mixture into the pasta shells and place them on top. Top with the crumb. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.