|Ricotta-and-Parsley-Filled Paccheri Baked with a Tomato, Butter and Sage Sauce|
The sauce is simplicity itself, but the pasta part of this dish - big tubes stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, parsley, egg and nutmeg - is a bit fiddly to make, and will take you a good half-hour to prepare.
If you're up to spending that much time stuffing a pasta tube, and you think life is long enough to do so, put on some good music and pour yourself a glass of wine.
If you don't have the time to spare, make the sauce - in double the quantity - tip it over a bowl of freshly cooked fettuccine, and top with fresh rocket and grated Parmesan.
I devised this dish because my family are getting a bit sick of the old pasta standbyes, namely spag bol, pasta-and-pesto and fettuccine Alfredo.
It's very similar to that classic Italian dish of cannelloni filled with ricotta and spinach, except that I used paccheri - large, hollow pasta tubes - instead of cannelloni, and parsley instead of spinach.
I am a great fan of flat-leaf parsley, and think it deserves to be treated as an actual vegetable, rather than a last-minute garnishing flourish, or as a humdrum stock ingredient.
You might think it odd that the uncooked pasta tubes are placed upright in the dish before they're baked, but I've done so to prevent the filling from squidging out while the dish sits, soaking in a cup of water, for an hour before baking.
If you can't find big pasta tubes, use cannelloni instead. And, as always, please use the best ingredients: really ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, crisp parsley and good butter.
Ricotta & Parsley Filled Paccheri with a Tomato Butter Sauce
1 bag (500 g) paccheri, or giant pasta tubes
For the stuffing:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) oil
1 Tbsp (15 ml) butter
1 medium onion, peeled and very finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 70 g)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
400 g ricotta cheese, crumbled
2 medium eggs
quarter of a whole nutmeg, finely grated
flaky sea salt
milled black pepper
about 4 Tbsp (60 ml) pouring cream
1½ cups (375 ml) hot water
For the sauce:
800 g ripe cherry tomatoes
80 g butter
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
6 sage leaves, finely shredded
4 Tbsp (60 ml) pouring cream
flaky sea salt
milled black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) grated Parmesan
First make the stuffing. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, and add the finely chopped onion. Fry, over a medium heat, for three minutes or so, or until the onion has softened, and is beginning to turn golden. Do not allow to brown. Turn down the heat, add the chopped parsley, stir well so that it is coated, and cook very gently for another minute. Remove from the heat and tip the mixture into a bowl. Add the lemon juice, ricotta, eggs and nutmeg, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Now add just enough cream to turn the mixture into a slack paste that can be easily squeezed through a piping bag.
Generously butter a deep ceramic or glass baking dish big enough to hold all the pasta tubes upright (note: the pictures in this blog were made with a half-quantity of this recipe, so you'll need a dish double the size). Put the filling into a piping bag fitted with a medium nozzle, and squeeze a little filling into each pasta tube.
The best way to do this is to place each tube upright on a chopping board, and to fill it from the top (no need to fill each tube to the brim: three-quarters full is fine). Place the filled tubes upright in the dish, leaning them against each other until the dish is full. If you run out of stuffing before the dish is full, put a few empty pasta tubes between the full ones so that the dish is fairly tightly packed. Pour a cup of hot water into a jug with a pouring nozzle, and trickle the water down the side of the ceramic dish, so that the bottoms of the tubes are standing in water. Set to one side while you make the sauce.
Add the garlic and shredded sage, and use a potato masher to lightly crush the tomatoes and release the juices. Turn down the heat and simmer very gently for another 10 minutes, crushing down on the tomatoes now and again, until you have a thick, chunky sauce. Stir in the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the sauce from the heat and pour it evenly over the top of the pasta tubes, without stirring. Give the dish a gentle shake, cover with clingfilm [saran wrap] and allow to stand for an hour.
In the meantime, heat the oven to 170 ºC. Remove the clingfilm from the dish and sprinkle the grated Parmesan evenly over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through, and the sauce is bubbling vigorously.
Serve with fresh rocket or mixed greens.
Serves 8. Print Friendly