Pasta names are the best. Conchiglie are shells, every type from the teeny tiny ones that can just cup a pea, up to the giant ones that can be stuffed full of some exciting filling and baked with oozy, bubbly cheesy sauce. And the giant ones look just like the conch shells they are named after If you hold a giant conchiglie to your ear you don’t hear the ocean though, you hear that scene from Lady and the Tramp when they slurp up the spaghetti noodle until they kiss.
I have been thinking about doing a baked pasta shell dish along these lines for ages, actually since I bought the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook. And while Deb Perelman is an undisputed genius, her stance on putting cheese in the shells is hard for me to get on board with. Why would anyone want to limit the cheesiness of baked pasta?
The shells don't have to be all cheese, I put some vegetables in there too. There is cheese in the sauce and cheese on top. To balance all this cheese I have pumped up the vegetables, with a generous helping of arugula and artichokes and some grape tomatoes tucked in the spaces between the shells.
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
shells & filling:
- around 20 extra large conchiglie shells
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 can artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
- 3 cups arugula, roughly chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup ricotta
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- ⅓ cup grated romano cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- salt and pepper
In well-salted boiling water and cook shells until just tender. Lay cooked shells out in a baking dish drizzled with olive oil.
Combine all remaining ingredients and spoon into the shells.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbs very finely chopped preserved lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- black pepper
Melt butter in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smoothly combined. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When all the milk is incorporated add the garlic and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to thicken, reduce heat and simmer for a couple more minutes. Add ricotta, lemon, salt and pepper.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- ½ cup parmesan & romano cheese
- parsley, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Tuck tomatoes into the spots between the shells. Pour sauce over the shells, giving them some little pokes to distribute the sauce well. Sprinkle cheese over everything and bake, covered with tinfoil for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15-20 minutes longer, or until cheese is golden and bubbling. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve right away.