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Baked conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese – spinach stuffing

After a brief hiatus from Italian food I am back and beaming with an exponentially increased love for pasta. And what can be better than homemade pasta! No, I don’t make pasta from scratch. This is the kind of stuff my sister does : from scratch and eggless. That she doesn’t chronicle her kitchen experiments on a public forum say a blog and post pictures from weird angles make her any less of an amazing cook. Thanks to her, we celebrated a marathon ” Chaat festival” last month. (Think dahi samosas, Mumbai ragda patties and the like). Thank you dearest sis for the wonderful time last month.. We miss you !

If you love pasta,  there’s probably a kindergarten going child inside you.  You probably are the kind of person who gets attracted to a dish more for the colours and shapes of the ingredients besides just the “mature’ flavors and aromas. I unleash the infant in me everytime we order pasta while eating out (and also when I order desserts, but thats  another story). So when I came across this recipe for stuffed pasta in the BBC Good Food India March 2012 issue, I was excited because I hadn’t known this shape of pasta before. The recipe was for stuffed pasta shells or conchiglie rigate — rigate refers to the grooves on the pasta which helps to better able to bind the sauce to it. This recipe called for a zucchini – ricotta stuffing, and even though I had zucchini in my crisper drawer I turned a blind eye to it and  decided to recreate the same spinach-cheese filling from my favorite dish.

The resulting dish was a hit! The only thing I would do differently the next time is to layer the pasta shells over white sauce instead of the tomato sauce. I felt that the tartness of the tomatoes kind of overpowered the subtle flavor of spinach. If you like the flavor pairing, there’s nothing like it ! Its a great dish to entertain your gang of close friends.

Baked Conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese-spinach filling
Barely adapted from : BBC Good Food India Magazine : March’12 issue
 

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Tomatoes: chopped, 6
  • Garlic: 3-4 cloves, crushed
  • Basil leaves- 5-6

For the pasts and filling:

  • Conchiglie pasta- I used 60 shells for 3 servings
  • Spinach- 1 cup chopped
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese – 200 g (I used homemade cottage cheese)
  • Garlic: 2-3 cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp
  • Salt- to taste
  • Pepper- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Mixed italian herbs: 1/2 tsp
  • Pizza cheese- 1/2 cup crated

Method

  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add the crushed garlic, cook for a minute and add chopped tomatoes. Simmer the tomatoes till they soften. With the help of a spatula mash the tomatoes and let the sauce thicken. Remove from flame and stir in 5-6 torn basil leaves.
  • Cook the pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions on the packet. ( Mine said 8 minutes ). Since this pasta has to be baked further, undercooking it is a good idea. I cooked the pasta for 6 minutes.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute. Now add the finely chopped spinach. Cook till the spinach reduces and appears shriveled. Now grate your cottage cheese block into it. Cook for a minute more. Add the pepper and salt to taste. Finally stir in more than half of the shredded pizza cheese and mix.
  • Heat the oven to 190° C . Now in a baking dish,  spoon in the tomato basil sauce. Fill the pasta shells with the ricotta-spinach stuffing. Arrange them in the dish in neat rows. Sprinkle over with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
  • Serve hot with toasted bread slices topped with garlic infused butter.

To make garlic infused butter (for 6 slices of bread) : Melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add in finely chopped garlic (6-7 cloves) and let the garlic pieces infuse into the butter over low heat. Now spoon the mixture uniformly over the surface of brown sandwich bread slices. Sprinkle oregano or Italian herbs. Toast or grill the bread slices in the oven, till they brown.

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