Super Cheesy Stuffed Pasta Shells
Sorry about the basic recipe title but ‘conchiglioni rigati stuffed with sprouts, greens and ricotta in a three-cheese sauce’ just seemed ridiculous, and my brain is on holiday until January 2nd.
I made this with the aim of using up all the Christmas cheese. Just when I thought we were finished I found a whole wedge of Colston Bassett, a substantial nub of Cheddar and a hefty slice of Mrs Kirkham’s lurking, so I’ve combined them with two more types of cheese to make this gigantic pasta bake. Believe it or not, we still have cheese leftover.
I had to use some finely sliced Brussels sprouts because this has been the year of #sproutcontent, particularly on my Instagram feed, and I’m chuffed that so many of you have made my sprout kimchi recipe. I combined them with cavolo nero, spinach and ricotta and stuffed the mixture into shells which were baked in the sauce, with more cheese on top for luck.
This was impossible to resist hot and bubbling from the oven, despite the fact that rich food fatigue is definitely setting in. To that end, make sure to eat it with a sharply dressed salad which will counterpoint some of the richness.*
*help you eat more pasta bake.
Super Cheesy Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe
Approx 30 large pasta shells (conchiglioni rigati)
150g sprouts, finely sliced
7 large cloves garlic, crushed
200g cavolo nero, leaves stripped from stalks
Butter, for cooking
A few pieces of blue cheese, such as Colston Bassett or Stichelton
Parmesan, for grating on top
For the bechamel
1 litre milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
70g plain flour
100g blue cheese such as Colston Basset or Stichelton, crumbled
100g cheddar, grated
Heat the milk gently with the onion, bay leaves and peppercorns – stirring – until it begins to simmer, then turn off, cover and set aside for 20 minutes or so.
In the meantime, wash the spinach and cavolo nero and place in a saucepan. Put a lid on and gently heat until wilted. Drain, then run under cold water until cool. Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop finely.
Heat a knob of butter in a pan and gently cook the sprouts and garlic until softened and smelling great. Combine with the spinach and cavolo nero. Add the ricotta and mix well. Season with salt and set aside.
Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water until just half cooked (they will continue cooking in the oven later). Run under cold water to cool them down. Stuff each with some of the greens and ricotta mixture. Set aside in a bowl.
To finish the bechamel, strain the milk and add back to the pan. Add the flour and butter and heat on a medium heat, whisking all the time until nice and thick. Melt in the cheese and taste – add salt if necessary. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cover the base of a large ovenproof dish with the bechamel. Arrange the pasta shapes on top, stuffing side up. Crumble the remaining blue cheese on top and cover with grated Parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and beginning to golden. Finish under the grill for 5 minutes to brown the top (watch carefully!).
Serve with a sharp green salad.