Sunday 29 August 2010

Ricotta-and-Parsley-Filled Paccheri Baked with a Tomato, Butter and Sage Sauce

The defining deliciousness of this sunny baked pasta dish comes from a sauce made from just a few ingredients: burstingly ripe cherry tomatoes cooked to a stickiness in hot butter, then lightly mashed with a whisper of garlic, a few shredded fresh sage leaves and a splash of cream.

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.

Parsley-Filled Paccheri with a Tomato Butter SauceIt'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

To top:
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.

Parsley-Filled Paccheri with a Tomato Butter Sauce
To make the sauce, cut a small slash in each cherry tomato. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, flat pan. When the butter stops foaming, add the tomatoes and cook, over a brisk heat, tossing often, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to brown and a sticky golden residue forms on the bottom of the pan.

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 ÂșC. 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.
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browniegirl said...

Oh how delicious! It is way past midnight already but my tummy grumbled and my salivary glands started working overtime as my eyes delighted in what they were looking at. Where do you buy your Paccheri if you dont mind me asking. I have not been able to find it anywhere. Now go to bed! Hehe....night night xx

Nina Timm said...

Jane, you surely must have knocked your family's socks right off with this recipe!!! That creamy suce has me drooling big time!!!

Anonymous said...

what a clever idea to leave them standing up! You have given me an idea for my challenge, thanks.

Marisa said...

Goodness gracious, this looks decadent!

Steve said...

This made a fine family supper earlier this evening.

No cannelloni, let alone paccheri, to be found locally, so improvised by mixing freshly-cooked (very al dente) penne straight into the stuffing. Spread them into a casserole dish; topped with the tomato sauce, and then straight into the oven. Not as interesting as paccheri standing to attention (or Jamie Oliver's Honeycomb Cannelloni) but every bit as enjoyable.

Lots of details to savour here: tiny tomatoes/butter/sage always work well together, and the lemon juice/nutmeg added interest to the ricotta and parsley. (I ran short of parsley, so added a handful of sorrel - a favourite mixture)

All in all, very yummy.

OT: your exchanges with Clive Simpkins were, by far, the pick of the twittering classes this weekend. Spirited defence of some very, very important principles that are coming under threat at the moment.

Tish Boyle said...

Yikes! That looks truly amazing!! Must make it...

Anonymous said...

That is absolutely mouthwatering. It is very rare that i find pasta dishes to be absolutely amazing but this one sounds feels like I already won the jackpot. I am a butter lower so this recipe has found its home :).

Anonymous said...

Found a few spelling errors, here is the correct comment.....

That is absolutely mouthwatering. It is very rare that i find pasta dishes to be absolutely amazing but this one makes me feel like I already won the jackpot. I am a butter lover so this recipe has found its home :).

polkadotcupcake said...

good gracious, filled pasta is just the end! you'd love rome, you can buy all sorts of incredible pasta shapes that are nearly impossible to get here.. Can't wait to try this sauce, tomatoes, here I come!

Homemade Heaven said...

I totally agree on the parsley. I have so much growing in my garden - it's bigger than the spinach!
This dish looks wonderful, and as always I have a happy day after reading your posts!

Koek! said...

You had me at "Ricotta-and-Parsley-Filled"... Then you added "Baked with a Tomato, Butter and Sage Sauce". I am going to have to make this. I am just not giving myself a choice.

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you my friends for these valuable comments. You have no idea how they cheer me up after a very difficult six weeks of being largely out of action due to back problems, sick kids, and so on. I don't mean to moan (Mustn't grumble, Mavis") but I have been terribly down in the dumps and am so encouraged by your support and suggestions. Especially coming, as they do, from accomplished cooks like you all.

Jane-Anne said...

@Steve Thank you for your comments re: Twitter. I would loved to have got really stuck into the debate, but when faced with an opponent whom I think is just grandstanding, I see no point.

Anonymous said...

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Hilary Kuree

Betty Bake said...

ooo this looks so utterly delicious :) mmmmm

wow - num num num

Betty Bake

Kit said...

This looks stunning. I've finally got a sage plant, so once it is happily growing I can apply it to some ripe tomatoes and try this out.

Steve said...

Found another use for that v. tasty ricotta & parsley stuffing last night - tucked under the skin of chicken breasts.

Fry skin-side down until crisp, then turn breasts and toss a handful of pine nuts into the pan. After a couple of minutes add a half-splash of white wine and cover for 15 minutes or so to finish.

Much, much nicer than the traditional fetta & spinach goo!

XtinaP said...

Oops! It's 11h30 and I am skiving off work to check out your site. Bad move. This sounds so yum, it's going to be hard to concentrate hereon.

Greogorian said...

Looking at this food, makes me wanna lick on my computer screen. It makes me so starving, I hate it!

toucanteacher said...

What is pouring cream? --It sounds great, and I love the little pasta, but I'm confused about the pouring cream.

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks for your query ToucanTeacher! What I mean by 'pouring cream' is ordinary fresh dairy cream in a tub, the sort you'd whip to serve with a pudding. I hope that helps! Regards, Jane-Anne