Wednesday, 5 November 2014


For some reason we didn't think we liked Ricotta. Don't ask me why I have no idea it's just one of those things we had got into our heads until one day we realised we hadn't actually eaten it (like ever!) and my philosophy is to always try everything once. So we did and I'm pleased we did otherwise we wouldn't have made this fabulous herby ricotta stuffed pasta bake. It's so cheesy and scrumptious, another fab dish to warm your cockles on these cold, dark November evenings. It's what the winter was made for!

This is a bit of a calorific comfort food feast mind! Your Conchiglioni is stuffed to the brim with three different types of cheeses: Ricotta, mozzarella and parmigiano. They work beautifully together. The ricotta holds the shape of the shells together whilst the mozzarella makes the filling all gooey and delicious. The parmigiano finishes the flavor off with a sharp cheese tang. It's a combo that I wouldn't tinker with much but if you want to experiment with other cheeses try and swap out ones with similar properties, parmesan instead of parmigiano for example.

During my trip to borough market last month I picked up a selection of delightful paste from a stand ran by Belazu. For the tomato sauce I've added 3 tsp of their tomato and paprika paste which, during the simmer and baking process really gives the sauce a beautiful deep smoky flavor that is truly incredible. If you have the opportunity to get your hands on a bottle from the market or hunting it out online, then add some into this dish pronto! If you don't have the time or inclination add in 2 tsp of smoked paprika to still get that smoky vibe to your dish,

This is a great dish to prepare in advance too. Get to the point before your adding the cheese to the top of the bake and then leave to one side to cool before placing in the fridge covered. This can be done earlier in the day so come dinner time you can remove from the fridge, top the bake with the sliced mozzarella and parmigiano, bake and serve.  A great way to sort out tea if you have a hectic afternoon.

The recipe below will feed two hungry folk or a family of four served with some nice fresh greens. Like cheese? Get on it!

3C Stuffed Pasta Bake

Approx. Large 16 Conchiglioni 
250g Ricotta
2 125g Balls Of Mozzarella
6 Tbsp Grated Parmigiano 
4 Tbsp Dried Basil
Salt And Pepper To Season
2 Grated Garlic Cloves
2 Finely Chopped Red Chili's
200g Mushrooms
3 Tsp Smoked Paprika Paste or Powder
2 400g Tin Of Chopped Tomatoes

  1. Begin by making your pasta. Cook to packet instructions but shave off 5 mins off the cooking time so that the pasta is just cooked but still firm enough to retain its shape. Once done, drain and leave to cool on a sheet of grease proof paper. 
  2. Next, prepare the filling. Place the ricotta in a bowl with 1 of the mozzarella balls chopped up into chunks, as small as possible. Add in 3 tbsp of the grated parmigiano and basil and give everything a good mix until well combined. Leave this to one side. 
  3. Next comes the sauce. In a large slightly oiled pan, fry together the garlic and chili with the mushrooms until they begin to soften. Add in the tomatoes along with the paprika and give everything a good mix whilst you bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 30 mins. 
  4. Whilst the sauce is simmering, spoon the cheese mixture into the pasta shells evenly so they are all nicely stuffed and turn your oven onto 200 degrees (180 fan). 
  5. Take a large oven proof dish and spoon in some of thetomato sauce on the bottom to coat the base of the dish. On top of this place a layer of the stuffed pasta shells. Cover this layer with some more of the sauce and then place some more of the shells on top. Repeat until all the shells have been used and are covered in all the yummy tomato sauce. 
  6. Slice the remaining mozzarella ball and layer on top before sprinkling over the rest of the Parmigiano. Place in the oven covered and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and then bake for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and dish up straight away. You want that bake to be piping hot as it goes in your bely to really heat your core. As you dish up you will have strings of that beautiful mozarella falling from your spoon and it's just an absolute joy to watch. Probably the definition of "Food Porn" if you ask me! Combine that with the deep and luscious smoky sauce and  you will be in food heaven. The pasta wont be the only thing that's stuffed!

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