25 March 2014

An inspired pantry-cleaning casserole

I generally only buy giant pasta shells to use up extra bits of ricotta or cottage cheese that won't support a full-size lasagna.  And then I end up with too many shells.  And then I buy marinated artichokes when they're on sale because they make for a quick pasta stir-in, and I don't use them for about a year.  You probably have some similar stories here.  Insert canned tuna, frost-covered frozen vegetables, and whatever pasta shape you have collecting dust on your shelf; you can easily adapt my little one-pot recipe here to correct your own indiscriminate purchases.  It's a delicious way to satisfy your spring cleaning frenzy or feed your face after a long trip away when you don't want to hit the grocery store on your way back into town.

Artichoke and Cheese Shells

Serves 2

12 large macaroni shells
2 cups vegetable stock
12 marinated artichokes (about  8 oz. jar)
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup prepared or homemade tomato sauce
2 tablespoons capers

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine feta, mozzarella, red pepper flakes, and oregano in a small bowl.  Season with salt to taste.

In a Dutch oven or large oven-proof skillet, bring the vegetable stock to boil.  Add the shells and cook until a little firmer than al dente, about 8 minutes.  Remove shells from cooking liquid and reserve a scant cup of the broth in the bottom of the pan.

Allow shells to cool to the touch.  Stuff each shell with one artichoke heart and 1/12 of the cheese mixture.  Please each shell in the shallow pool of vegetable stock remaining in the Dutch oven. Pour the tomato sauce evenly over the top and scatter the capers and Parmesan cheese over that. Cover with a lid and place in the oven; bake 25 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted.  Serve with warm crusty bred and copious amounts of red, red wine.