Hidden Veggie Ricotta Stuffed Baked Pasta
Ok so maybe that description doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and won’t catch on like, say, pigs in blankets, perhaps. But I didn’t know how best to describe this delicious meat-free comfort food with a healthier twist. When we think of comfort food, it doesn’t normally include four different vegetables. And actually this dish has the potential to pack in even more, so next time I make it, I will definitely add some shredded carrots and sautéed leeks to the tomato sauce base too. It has been a pretty rough week for me ever since I got 2nd degree burns all down my left arm, hand and leg from an exploding tomato soup incident last weekend. It’s been especially hard with both kids off on half term so I have really been craving comforting food that can jump out of the bowl and give me a giant hug. And this is one of those meals. It is the perfect dish to cheer you up and is also a great one to prepare ahead of time for a dinner party too. I made mine in the morning, so all I needed to do was pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at dinnertime.
So normally I only ever use wholegrain pasta and can’t remember the last time I made white pasta at home. However, I was inspired by a recipe in BBC Good Food Magazine and knew instantly that once I’d laid my eyes on it, the nagging “Make me! Make me!” wasn’t going to go away on its own accord. So I researched the deepest darkest depths of the internet in search of wholewheat Conchiglie,alas I am sad to report, that such a thing does not exist. So instead of abandoning the recipe, I decided to make it anyway in honour of all things delicious. Plus I know that we get plenty of wholegrains in our diet and I thought if I amped up the vegetable factor, then there would be enough fibre in this meal regardless of it’s white-flour-ness.
One portion provides 478 calories, 26g of protein and a massive 37% of my daily fibre requirements (pah! wholegrain shmolegrain!).
NOTE: If you are short on time, you could always just use a shop bought jar of tomato sauce instead of making your own.
For the stuffing
· 250g Ricotta
· 50g Spinach Leaves
· ½ tsp Grated Nutmeg
· ½ tsp Garlic Granules
· Generous Handful Fresh Sage
· Zest from 1 Lemon
· Salt & Fresh Black Pepper
For the Sauce
· 2 x 400g tins Chopped Tomatoes
· 4 Garlic Cloves
· 1 Red Onion
· 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
· 150ml Vegetable Stock
· 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
· 2 tbsp Sugar (I used Erythritol)
· 1 tbsp Dried Herbs of your choice (I like Rosemary, Sage and Basil combination)
· ½ tsp Oil
· Salt & Fresh Black Pepper
For the rest
· 1 Courgette
· 125g Jumbo Pasta Shells
· 100g Mozzarella (I like to used Smoked Scamorza) - chopped
· Grated Parmesan to top
· Handful Fresh Basil Leaves
· Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
· To make the tomato sauce, finely dice the onion, mince the garlic and heat the oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat.
· Fry the onion until soft and lightly golden.
· Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes before adding the remaining sauce ingredients.
· Simmer on a low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the rest.
· Put the pasta shells into a large saucepan with a pinch of salt, and pour over boiling water over to cover all of the shells.
· Put a lid on and leave them to soften for 15-20 mins – you don’t want them too mushy because you need to fill them with the stuffing.
· In the meantime, make courgette ribbons with a vegetable peeler and make the stuffing.
· Add all of the stuffing ingredients to a high-speed blender and blitz until smooth. Set aside.
· Drain the pasta and, using a teaspoon, fill the shells with the ricotta stuffing.
· The tomato sauce should be a little more liquid than normal because the pasta shells will absorb some as it bakes. So if you need to add some more vegetable stock to the sauce, do so.
· Pour the tomato sauce into a large ovenproof dish and nestle the shells into the sauce, filled-side up.
· Roll up the courgette ribbons and tuck them in between the pasta shells, along with the chopped mozzarella.
· Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins until the top is golden and the pasta is tender.
· Finish off with some grated parmesan and a few chopped basil leaves.
Calories – 478
Protein – 26g
Fat – 21g
Carbohydrates – 58g
Fibre – 11g
Vitamin C – 15%
Iron – 10%
Calcium – 6%