When I saw these conch-shaped pasta shells in the supermarket, I actually stopped in the middle of the aisle, eyes wide like saucers, oblivious to the muttering woman behind me who had almost run her trolley up my rear end.
As I stood in the aisle mesmerised by all the things I could picture myself doing with this pasta, I realised I hadn’t had these for the longest time- and certainly had never cooked them myself. I had enjoyed them at my grandma’s house, dripping in home-made tomato sauce or baked under a lovely sprinkle of mozzarella crust as pasta al forno.
This large, shell shaped pasta is perfect for soaking up delicious sauces or being stuffed with tasty ricotta based fillings. Think of it as a shell shaped cannelloni. Even though before they are cooked the shells have a wide, deep scoop, when cooked, they curl up on themselves, nestling all the flavours in their shell. It’s like a big pasta hug.
I chose to do a slow-roasted tomato, caramelised onion and chorizo accompaniment for this pasta because I knew it would soak up those flavours perfectly. Of course you could have this sauce with your penne or fettuccine as well.
This is an easy after work dinner- simply pop the sauce ingredients on a baking tray for about 40 minutes while you catch up on housework or unwind from the day- then just cook the pasta and toss it all together.
- 1 packet of conchiglioni pasta
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 3 mushrooms, whole
- 1 onion, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 red capsicum, sliced thinly
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 chorizo sausage, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup Basil leaves, roughly chopped (or dried basil)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 170°C (fan forced). Arrange tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms and capsicum on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes to an hour.You want the tomatoes to be soft, slightly browned and collapsing. Don’t fret if there’s a bit of colour on your onions or capsicum- it adds to the flavour, but if your onions have burnt, peel off the outer few layers.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water with a generous amount of salt and olive oil to prevent the pasta sticking together. When cooked, drain (retain 3/4 cup of the pasta water in a separate cup or bowl for later) and set aside in the same saucepan, covering it with a lid.
- Once the tomato mix has cooled somewhat, cut the tip off the garlic cloves and squeeze out the roasted garlic. With a wooden spoon, squash the tomatoes down- it’s not about perfection, it’s going to look ‘rustic’ (translation: sloppy)- don’t stress about it! Slice the mushrooms thinly.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the sliced chorizo and cook for a few minutes until it has picked up some colour. Add the tomato mix to the pan with the tomato puree and pasta water, stir it around until the sauce begins to thicken and emulsify.
- Add the pasta to the pan, toss through the sauce and add your spinach and basil leaves until they wilt. Season to taste.
- Serve with Parmesan and some crusty bread.