Saturday, February 9, 2008

Shells with Crispy Pancetta & Spinach

I'm on a roll. Trying some of the recipes amongst the hundreds of clippings I sorted through a few days ago. This one was only about 7 months old - after I broke my foot last summer I watched a heck of a lot of television, and this was one of Giada's Italian recipes that sounded so good, and I knew I'd enjoy it. It's easy to make, too. Can't beat that combination. I really can't say that I make all that many recipes from Food Network shows. I enjoy watching some of them (as theater, I suppose) but only occasionally do I go to the Network's site and print out a recipe.

Here are Giada De Laurentis' stuffed jumbo shells, placed in a baking dish. Photo from the Food Network.

I almost always have pancetta on hand, but I didn't have the 3/4 inch cubes Giada mentions in the recipe - I had the tiny cubed pancetta that I get from Trader Joe's in 4-ounce packages. DH offered to go grocery shopping for me, so I wrote down "large pasta shells." I should have known that "jumbo" was what I wanted. Soooo, I had to improvise a bit. The large shells are way too small to stuff, so I just made a casserole of them instead. Am sure they tasted the same, but most definitely didn't look as attractive as Giada's. The Asiago cheese is part of what "makes" this dish, since it has a kind of sharp taste. Good, though. And the dash of nutmeg in the mixture was really delish. The dish is rich, so it's filling. DH liked this a LOT. Said I could make this anytime. Any day. Night. Whenever.

Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach
Recipe: Giada de Laurentis, Everyday Italian, Food Network
Serving Size : 8 [Giada says this feeds 4-6. No way - more like 8-10 in my estimation.]
1 package jumbo pasta shells -- (12-ounce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound pancetta -- cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 pounds frozen spinach -- thawed and drained
15 ounces ricotta cheese -- whole milk
1 cup asiago cheese -- grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove -- minced
1 cup cream
2 cups asiago cheese -- grated, set aside 1/4 cup
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. For the shells: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
3. Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.
4. For the sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved. Pour the sauce over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese.
5. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Per Serving: 410 Calories; 31g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 103mg Cholesterol; 1419mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 4 1/2 Fat.
Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.

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