Friday, July 15, 2011

Shelling out

Every so often I know some kind of pasta with lots of sauce is what I really want to eat. When I felt like this on Saturday and opened my Food of Italy, out fell a months-old Dom-Post clipping - a Jill Dupleix recipe for pasta shells with pork ragu and parmesan cream.
         I had everything listed except the shells. My first impulse was to make do with one of the other five kinds of pasta in the pantry, but it was a nice day, so I stifled that unworthy thought and set off for Gamboni's. His beautiful shells were superbly named
"conchiglioni al bronzo", making them sound like an Italian toyboy.

They cost $6.95. Once upon a time I would have thought, "that's a whole $4 more than supermarket pasta - no, that's too much". But now I've learnt better - the right thing to compare it with is the cost of eating the same dish in a restaurant, twice.
      So here's the recipe. It's a little ironic, because Dupleix's latest book is called Lighten Up, and on her website she says, "I have always loved good food, but now I want it to be good for me too. So I have learned how to lighten up on everything but freshness and flavour, without the cream, pastry and unnecessary animal fats that slow me up and weigh me down." There are lots of veges in this - but the cream is the whole point...

Pasta shells with pork ragu and parmesan cream (Jill Dupleix)

It says "serves 4" but that  must mean four starving Italians - I reckon this will feed at least 6.

(original recipe photo)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely diced
50g pancetta or ham, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
500g coarsely minced pork
1 Tbsp plain flour
400ml tomato passata
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano (I used more of the fresh leaves)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp flat-leaved parsley, chopped
250g large pasta shells (e.g. conchiglioni) (so I got this EXACTLY right!)
150g frozen peas (I admit, I left these out)

Parmesan cream
150ml cream
50g grated parmesan
1 tsp grated lemon zest
a few fine grates of nutmeg

* If you have a food processor, instead of finely dicing the veges by hand, put chunks of onion, peeled carrot and celery into the bowl and pulse until finely chopped together.
* Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan, gently cook garlic, then add veges and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add pork and cook till browned. Scatter with flour and cook for another 2 minutes, then add tomato passata and paste, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper and 300ml water. Stir well and simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
* Put large pot of water on to boil for pasta. Heat oven to 180C. Cook pasta shells in boiling salted water until just tender (I find this takes about 10 minutes), then scoop out and drain carefully (the water tends to get stuck inside them). Cook peas, if using them, in the pasta water for 1 minute, then drain.
* Toss shells in the other 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spoon the ragu into each shell and arrange in a lightly oiled baking dish. (I found it was easier to arrange them first and then fill them.) Scatter with peas and put another couple of large spoons of ragu over the top.
* In a small pan, gently heat the cream with most of the parmesan, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the top and scatter with remaining parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

I think I took this before I cooked it - I was sure I'd taken one after as well, but it's vanished. Annoying, because the finished dish looked exactly like the picture (minus the peas). But you get the idea. Ample red wine, a green salad and enough other people to stop you making a total maiale of yourself are the only other things you need. Buon appetito.


Jan said...

Delicious! And, yes, Gamboni's is a wonderful place - only very recently discovered by my family, even though it's been open about a year, I think. My son especially loves pasta and what he calls "red sauce" like the dish you made. It makes me smile to think of you, just along the hill from me, tucking into your pasta!


Mrs Cake said...

Looks glorious! I have some of those shells hiding in my pantry - perhaps this will grace our table sometime soon. Perfect food for this time of year!