As soon as the weather turns cold I turn into a comfort-food-carboholic, which is why we have been gorging ourselves on some truly tasty Giant Stuffed Pasta Shells this week. Pasta loaded up with cheese, meat, herbs, zesty lemon and cooked with a spicy tomato sauce – yes please! I love using giant pasta shells, or conchiglioni, as not only do they look spectacular, they are a million times less faff to stuff than cannelloni tubes and you get loads more delicious filling in them.
I’ve given the instructions in this recipe to make a quick and easy tomato sauce to go with the pasta, but if you want to give this recipe the speedy weeknight treatment, then it is perfectly acceptable to use a jar of good quality pasta sauce as a shortcut. I’ve also stuffed these pasta shells with some delicious turkey mince to bulk them out a bit, they are however, delicious just filled with oozing cheese goodness, so if you are vegetarian or looking to reduce the meat in your diet, leave it out and bump up the quantities of the three cheeses in the filling.
Giant Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 24-30 giant pasta shells / conchiglioni , approx. 175-200g
for the sauce:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tins whole tomatoes
- 1.5 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
for the stuffing:
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil, for frying
- 400 g chicken or turkey mince
- 250 g ricotta or cottage cheese
- 100 g grated mozzarella
- 50 g grated Parmesan
- 50 g baby spinach, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp dried oregano, or leaves from a small bunch of fresh
- zest of 1 lemon
- salt & pepper
for the topping:
- 50 g grated mozzarella
- Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4, then begin by cooking the pasta shells in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until just al-dente. Drain then rinse under cold, running water and set aside.
- To make the sauce (see note 1), heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan until melted and the butter is foaming. Cook the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until it is softened but not browned. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for another minute.
- Use a pair of scissors to chop the tomatoes while they are still in the tin, then pour into the pan along with all other sauce ingredients. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time until the sauce has thickened. Check the seasoning adding more salt and pepper if necessary, then pour the sauce into a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe the pan out with a paper towel, then place back over the heat with a tablespoon of neutral oil. Cook the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until all the liquid has evaporated from the pan and the mince is lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.
- Combine all stuffing ingredients, including the mince, in a large bowl, stirring well to combine. Spread ¼ of the sauce over the bottom of a baking dish large enough to fit all of the shells in a single layer, then stuff each shell with about a tablespoon of the stuffing mixture, then place the shells meat side up on the sauce. If there is any leftover stuffing, crumble it over the top of the shells.
- Cover the shells with the remaining sauce, sprinkle over the mozzarella, then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
- Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
TIPS & TRICKS:
If you’re really in a hurry, you can make this recipe with ready cooked prawns, though I think the flavour is better if they haven’t been hanging around too long – this is where a bag of frozen prawns is a lifesaver – you can poach them straight from frozen – they’ll need about double the amount of time in the hot water to cook through.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might enjoy another of my favourite pasta recipes recipes ‘Homemade Tortelli Pasta’!