Sunday, September 7, 2008

Baked Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Goat Cheese


6 oz. (about 1/2 a box or 20 shells) jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente

2 tbsp. olive oil
14 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup toasted dry breadcrumbs
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. fresh spinach, stems removed and finely chopped
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 walnuts, toasted and minced
Salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Heat the olive oil and cook garlic until it releases its aroma, about 1 minute.
3) Add spinach and saute, removing from heat when spinach is wilted and bright green, approx. 2 minutes more.
4) Stir hot spinach and garlic into goat cheese in a medium bowl--the spinach should melt the cheese enough to soften.
5) Incorporate remaining ingredients, season to taste, and set aside.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce (for both of these, I prefer Muir Glen brand)
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake (more if desired)
1/4 cup vodka
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup whole milk
Handful fresh basil, torn
Salt and pepper
Boulder Beer Company Cold Hop

1) Saute garlic in the heated oil until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.
2) Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper flake, sugar, and vodka.
3) Simmer the sauce while stuffing the cooked shells with the pasta filling, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
4) Add milk to sauce. With a hand or standing blender, puree about half the sauce and return it to the pot.
5) Season to taste (the salt will balance the sugar), and add basil off heat.
6) Line a casserole, jelly roll pan, or baking dish with the stuffed shells. They should nestle closely. Cover with the vodka sauce.
7) Tent with tinfoil and bake for 20 minutes.
8) Open Cold Hop.
9) Enjoy together.

Beers coming out of Colorado, long a bastion of the microbrew community, can tend toward the daring or the mainstream at will. This one happens to lean in the latter direction, but it's still a good beer--the combination of English-style malts and cold hops isn't nearly as daring as it might sound, but it does taste very mellow and refreshing on the palate. Not a lot of bitter hops, but the floral quality melds very nicely with the golden, full flavor profile of British malts. It's clean, it's high gravity, it's not something you necessarily want to serve with a pasta this rich, but in the end we liked the simplicity of the well-balanced brew (even though it finished rather swiftly) with the acidity and savory cream of the pasta.

Moments of great alarm abounded for me during this seemingly calm Italian comfort food recipe, which I--Lyndsay--really did write myself. I was super proud that I came up with it, and then the shadows fell over the darkening world. Moments of quiet, stationary (we only have a one-bedroom apartment) panic ensued. Terrifying, soul-searching, agonizing moments like:

What if the cooked pasta sticks together?
Answer: toss it in a little olive oil, or EVOO as that Food Network gnome puts it.

What if there isn't enough stuffing for the shells??
Answer: throw some shells away. And calm DOWN. Really, what do individual shells cost? 10 cents?

What if I die from salmonella after tasting the stuffing to see if it's well seasoned???!?
Answer: how many times have you tasted raw cookie dough, you smacktarded dumbass? Also, if one were more intelligent than I am, one could taste the pre-egg confab and get a pretty damn close guess.

I hope this little Q&A settled any fears or doubts you may have about this recipe, which is really very satisfying and could serve four with a side salad, as written.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Psyched on this recipe. Only simple one with goat cheese i could find!