I gave my boyfriend a bit of a fright the other day. I had a pile of books from the library and on the top of the pile was a book called ‘After school meal-planner’ (which had a picture of smiling kids sitting round a table).
You can imagine the look on his face! I had to quickly explain that choosing the book had nothing to do with me wanting kids – and no I certainly am not feeling broody (honestly children are so not on the radar at the moment, I’m struggling to look after all my plants, I couldn’t contemplate looking after a human being).
It’s just the book, written by Annabel Karmel – who I hear is a big noise in the children’s food industry – had lots of appetising meals in, particularly for lunches and snacks which I usually lack inspiration for.
The initial shock has passed and the other night he enjoyed a delicious meal made to one of the book’s recipes. This was giant pasta shells filled with a lovely cheesy, ricotta and spinach filling and covered in a rich tomato sauce. It’s then baked so it is cross between and lasagne and cannelloni. It was really delicious and was a nice change from your typical pasta dinner. I think although it is quite a homely dish it would work equally well as an informal dinner party dish because the shells make it look that little but more classy.
Can I just add – and I really don’t like to encourage people to shop at supermarkets but – you might think these large pasta shells are hard to come by. I first searched a couple of delis to see if they had them but no luck. However while popping into my local Tesco I found they had them in their Finest range for about £1.50 for a large bag, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find some.
150g giant pasta shells
For the tomato sauce:
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1tbsp tomato puree
pinch of sugar
For the filling:
100g fresh spinach, washed and wilted briefly and then squeezed lightly to get rid of some of the water
100 g ricotta
125g ball of mozzarella, diced
6 tbsp parmesan
pinch of ground nutmeg
1.Cook the pasta in boiling water for 12-15 minutes. Drain and run under a cold tap then toss in some oil to stop them sticking together.
2.For the sauce fry the onion gently in olive oil until soft then add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two. Add the passata, tomato puree, sugar and season and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set to one side.
3.For the stuffing mix the ricotta with the spinach and 2/3 of the mozzarella, 4tbsp of the parmesan and the nutmeg and season.
4.Put a fine layer of sauce on the bottom of a lasagne dish or round ceramic dish. Stuff each shell with about 1tsp of filling and put them face up on top of the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce around and on top of the shells. Scatter with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan and bake at 200 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.