I’ve oddly never written about this dish because I believed it to be supremely complicated and fussy to make. Reserved for the most special of occasions, it took on near mythical properties growing up. On a recent trip to London, my mother offered to show me how to make it and, as is so often the case, it turns out to be very easy. Getting an actual recipe from her, though, was not so easy. Everything done ‘all’occhio’ (literally by the eye), I ran after her remeasuring everything she casually threw in the bowl. They’re packed with flavor from the porcini mushrooms and deliciously rich so remember that a little goes a long way!
NB: Always be on the look out for large pasta shells. Not as easy to find as they once were, buy 2 packs whenever you see them.
Stuffed Pasta Shells (Lumaconi Ripieni)
1/2 lb large pasta shells
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
Dash of grated nutmeg
1/4 cup butter + 2 tablespoons
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried porcini, soaked in hot water and then finely chopped
1/4 cup Marsala/sherry
1/2 lb ricotta
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for sprinkling
Salt and pepper
1 cup light cream
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 8 minutes. Drain and dry spread out on a large tea towel.
3. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the spinach with a little grated nutmeg for a few minutes.
4. Transfer to a large bowl and then in the same pan, heat the 2 tablespoons butter and add the garlic and mushrooms. After a few minutes, add the Marsala or sherry and cook for a further 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Add the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the spinach and leave to cool.
5. Once cool, add the egg, ricotta and Parmesan. Season well with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
6. Butter a large baking dish that will fit all the shells in one layer. Stuff each shell with a large tablespoon of the mushroom and spinach mixture.
7. In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup of butter, add the light cream and bring to a simmer. Pour over the pasta and then sprinkle with more Parmesan.
8. Bake covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered for 10 minutes. Serve warm.