Stuffed pasta shells recipe with ricotta bolognese
STEPS 6 INGREDIENTS 16 TIME 2 HRS
Over and above the recommended starter ingredients below, this stuffed pasta dish is totally flexible; you can really stuff the conchiglioni shells with whatever you like (more stuffing ideas at the end of this page).
This dish takes a bit more time then many baked pasta recipes, because there are a couple more steps involved and effectively 2 easy sauces to whip up (one makes the filling, the other covers the dish).
However this extra prep is well worth it as the final result is a really succulent meaty dish that offers a great contrast between the sumptuous softness of slow-cooked beef and the more sturdy consistency of baked pasta. All topped off with a lovely rich tomato sauce.
- 400g/14oz ground beef (or half beef/half pork)
- x4 400g/14oz cans of plum tomatoes
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves
- 2 onions
- 2 small carrots
- 1 stick of celery
- 200g/7oz soft ricotta cheese
- 150g/5oz mozzarella or scamorza cheese
- 50g/1.75oz parmesan cheese
- Tomato purée/paste
- 10g/0.3oz butter
- Glass of full-bodied red wine
- Extra virgin olive oil
STEP 1 - First we prepare this recipe’s veggies and herbs:
- Peel the onions and carrots.
- Put one onion to one side (it's for the tomato sauce later).
- ‘Clean’ the celery by chopping off leaves, snapping off white end section and pulling outer layers from stalk.
- Chop celery, 1 onion and carrots into chunks then blend in a food processor. No processor? Chop as finely as you can.
- Grate parmesan.
- Rinse & tear basil leaves.
- Chop mozzarella into small cubes.
STEP 2 - The most important part of this stuffed pasta shells recipe? The filling of course. Let's make it...
- Cover the base of a large cooking pan/skillet with olive oil.
- Warm on medium heat hob then add: 3 tablespoons of 3-veg mixture (used for many sauces this is called trito in Italian), most of basil leaves and teaspoon of tomato paste.
- Fry until mixture softens (3-4 mins).
- Add wine and fry to evaporate this (3-4 mins).
- Now add ground meat and break up well using wooden spoon.
STEP 3 - Fry, stirring regularly, until the meat browns (approx. 10 mins more).
- Now add 2 cans of plum toms, with juice, plus a teaspoon of salt and dash of pepper.
- Simmer on a low, slow- bubble heat until sauce slowly thickens up.
How long? Half an hour is the minimum for this sauce, however longer on a lower heat is way better. The ideal time if you can… 2-3 hours, real Italian style!
- When thick and scrummy, move off heat. Now stir in ricotta and half the parmesan. Buono, that’s your pasta stuffing!
STEP 4 - We'll cover your stuffed pasta shells in tomato sauce before they go in the oven, so let’s make this sauce:
- Take the spare onion from earlier and chop finely.
- Warm a little olive oil in medium heat frying pan and fry onion until it softens - 3-4 mins.
- Add remaining 2 cans of plum tomatoes (including juice), plus 1 pinch of salt per tomato.
- Fry covered if possible for 2-3 mins, to soften the toms, then break up with spoon.
- Remove lid and simmer for 15-20 mins until sauce thickens and loses sourness.
STEP 5 - Now cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water. It should be ‘al dente’ so cook for 2 mins less than packet suggests.
- When time is up, carefully remove pasta shapes from water, draining them as you go (a pasta lifting spoon is ideal for this).
STEP 6 - Now we prepare this baked pasta baby for the oven.
- Stain the bottom of your oven dish with a little tomato sauce.
- Fill with conchiglioni or caccavelle pasta, positioned open side up.
- Use a teaspoon to half-fill each pasta shell with meat sauce (you’ll need your fingers for this!).
- Add a central layer of mozzrella chunks, sprinkle of parmesan and leftover basil bits.
- Top up with more bolognese sauce.
- Cover exposed pasta parts with remaining tomato sauce, plus final parmesan sprinkle.
- Bake in a pre-heated 180C/350º fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes.
Alternative stuffing ideas
Not big on bolognese? Try this stuffed pasta shells recipe with these mixtures inside instead…
• Eggplant/aubergine (see steps 1-2 of this ravioli recipe)
• Sausage meat (see this sausage ravioli page)
• Find even more stuffing thoughts here.
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