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Cavolo Nero and Ricotta Conchiglioni in a Gorgonzola Sauce

Cavolo Nero and Ricotta Conchiglioni in a Gorgonzola Sauce
July 2022
Reading time 5 minutes
For everyone’s benefit I selflessly tested this multiple times, each time concentrating on portion control, and concluded that seven shells per person is the right amount for a one-course meal, with four extra in the pan for the cook to quietly return to while no one is looking. To bulk
the meal, add some retro garlic bread and a rocket (arugula) salad with balsamic glaze.
  • 32 (230–250g/8–9oz) conchiglioni (large pasta shells)
  • 300g (10½oz) cavolo nero, leaves stripped (stems discarded)
  • Leaves from 7–8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
  • 400g (14oz) ricotta
  • 40g (1½oz) Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/6 nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 220g (7¾oz) full-fat crème fraîche
  • 150ml (scant 2/3 cup) just-boiled water
  • 150g (5½oz) Gorgonzola piccante
  • 3 tbsp walnuts, chopped/crumbled

You will need an ovenproof dish that fits the shells snugly in one layer once filled (you can check by putting the dried shells in – they should cover about two thirds of the surface area).

1. Put a large pan of salted water over a high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook for two thirds of the time recommended on the packet (so probably for 10–11 minutes), until wobbly and pliable yet still a little chalky rather than al dente. Drain through a sieve (strainer) or colander and leave under cold-running water until chilled. Set to one side.

2. Put the ribbons of cavolo nero along with three tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a medium heat, place a lid on top and let them wilt for 4–5 minutes, until soft and tender. Transfer to a sieve or colander, chill under running water, then squeeze the leaves in your hands to remove as much liquid as possible. The cavolo nero will end as a tightly packed green ball. Chop this very finely, then chop a bit more.

3. Make sure the parsley leaves are chopped to a dust, then in a bowl use the back of a fork to combine the ricotta, cavolo nero, parsley, 10g (¼oz) of the Parmesan, the nutmeg and black pepper. 

4. Decant the crème fraîche into the ovenproof dish. Add 20g (¾oz) more of the Parmesan and pour in the just-boiled water. Use a whisk or fork to gently swirl the cream, water and cheese until they are one. Crumble in two thirds of the Gorgonzola, and all of the walnuts (ensure both are evenly distributed).

5. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F.

6. Now use a teaspoon to fill the pasta shells, pushing the ricotta mix down a little and smoothing off the top before placing each shell in the ovenproof dish, and repeating until all are filled and arranged. Crumble and add the rest of the Gorgonzola over the top of the shells, then finish with a liberal dusting of Parmesan all over.

7. Bake towards the top of the oven for 20 minutes, by which time the sauce should be bubbling, the Gorgonzola on top of the shells melted, and a few (but not all) pasta edges burnished. 

8. Serve seven shells per person, spooning plenty of blue-cheesy walnutty sauce over and around them. You can tell everyone there’s one filled shell each if they get a second wind. Or smuggle them away for yourself.

CRAVE: Recipes arranged by flavour, to suit your mood and appetite by Ed Smith (Quadrille, £25) Photography: Sam A. Harris

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