Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Beef and Tomato Stuffed Conchiglioni

As I pottered in the kitchen one night, deciding what to cook, I found minced beef, tins of tomatoes and all the necessaries for a good Spag Bol. But I also had some giant conchiglioni shells, so I thought that instead of making a normal beef and tomato sauce with pasta I would stuff the shells with the meaty mixture, cover them with cheese and bake them.

It was great - a really different way to serve a Bolognese style sauce, and although it involved a little bit more tinkering, it was worth it. The cheese melts in the oven and some of the beef pokes through and crispens up a little in the heat, which gives it all a completely different texture. When you're baking pasta though, you do need more liquid, hence the extra step to line the oven dish with sauce before you arrange the filled pasta shells. The children loved it - probably more for the fact that it was something different than their usual teatime fare, but there you go...



I usually have a pot of chicken stock in the fridge, kept over from when I cook my chicken in the slow cooker so I just tip in a bit of that, but you could make your own with a stock cube if you want to. And putting in the Parmesan rind might seem strange but do have a rummage in the fridge to see if you have one - while it doesn't melt into the sauce completely, it does give it so much flavour.

Baked Beef and Tomato Stuffed Conchiglioni
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
  • 400g large conchiglioni shells
  • 2 x 400g tins tomatoes
  • 4 medium-sized cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 100ml chicken or beef stock
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tsp basil, chopped
  • The rind from a wedge of Parmesan (if you have it)
  • 340g lean beef mince
  • Parmesan cheese, for grating over

Method:
  1. Put the pasta on to boil in a large pan, with slightly salted water, until it's al dente - with just a little bite to it and not completely wobbly.
  2. Chop the onion and garlic cloves and cook gently in a little olive oil until soft, but not coloured.
  3. Tip in the tins of tomatoes and break them up a bit with your spoon or spatula, if they're not chopped already. Throw in the Parmesan rind. Then, trickle in the stock with the salt, a grinding of black pepper and the red wine vinegar and leave to bubble away for 15-20 minutes.
  4. The pasta should be cooked. Drain and rinse with cold water and put to one side.
  5. Take out the Parmesan rind and blend the sauce with a jug or stick blender.
  6. In the empty frying pan you just used for the sauce, brown the mince, until it's cooked through, and drain off any excess fat.
  7. Pour half of the sauce mixture onto the beef in the pan, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the basil. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  8. Spoon the other half of the blended sauce into the bottom of a roasting dish. Pick through the slightly cooled pasta to see if there are any broken shells that have come apart either during cooking or from the pack. Scatter these over the sauce, keeping back all the complete shells.
  9. With a teaspoon, spoon some of the beef and tomato mixture into each shell, and arrange, beef side up, in the roasting dish. Keep going until all the shells have been filled.
  10. Scrape any remaining beef and tomato sauce out of the frying pan and pour in and around the shells in the dish. Scatter over a handful of grated Parmesan and bake in the oven until it's all bubbling and hot, and the pasta is cooked - about 35-45 minutes. If it looks like it's browning a bit too much, cover with foil.
  11. Spoon into bowls, and enjoy with a dressed green salad and some garlic bread on the side.

What's your favourite way to cook pasta?