Summer has arrived in Greece and has settled for good. The temperature yesterday rose to 30° C. I wish I could be in beach swimming and sun-bathing. Instead, I continue my everyday routine. Anyway, summer vacations will come eventually. Until then I am trying to do things to accelerate my mood. Just like cooking for example.
The idea for this dish came to me after reading a recipe at Canadian Living. I thought that stuffing pasta is something like the homemade filled pasta only with less trouble. I know I know hand-made pasta is very unique and with a taste that is really overwhelming. I guess this is the next best thing. This was really good. I very much enjoyed it. So did everyone in the family. Plus, it is a good way to hide the spinach, so as to trick your child to eat it. You will notice in the pictures that the béchamel is yellow. This is because I used countryside eggs. My husband has a colleague. This girl is from a town in the Northern part of Greece. Her grandfather keeps chickens and feeds them with plain corn. Every month the grandfather sends her around 60 eggs. You can understand that, if she eats all these eggs, her cholesterol will reach the roof. So, she keeps a few and the rest she gives them to families with children. I feel so much obliged for this. Anyway, going back to the dish, it is a very versatile recipe and basically you can use whatever you have in your pantry and fridge. I like these recipes, they are so less stressful.
Jumbo Shells with Spinach Filling
300gr. Jumbo Pasta Shells
400gr. Frozen Spinach, thawed
1 scallion, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped finely
¼ cup dry white wine
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
250gr. light cream 3% fat
300 gr. anthotiro (anthotiro is a Greek cheese very similar to ricotta or cottage cheese)
1 handful graviera (graviera has similar taste to gruyere)
For the béchamel
7 tbsp flour
6 tbsp butter
4 cups evaporated milk
1 handful parmigiano reggiano
1/2 cup emmental or any other Suisse cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks lightly beaten
In boiling water we throw 3 tbsp olive oil and the pasta. We cook for 5 to 6 minutes, just until the pasta has soften a little bit, but it is still firm. The reason why we put the olive oil is that, we do not want the pasta to stick to each other, after we drain them. In this way each cell is “lubricated” and is not sticky.
We prepare the filling. In a skillet we throw the other 3 tbsp of olive oil in medium to high heat. We sauté the scallion and onion for couple of minutes. We throw the wine and sauté until it evaporates. We then throw the spinach and dill and sauté for couple of minutes more. Then add the cream and continue until most of it is absorbed. We lower the heat to low and throw the anthotiro and the graviera and mix until they are melted and incorporated.
Now we proceed with the filling. We take a baking glass pan and we butter it very generously. Take each shell and with a teaspoon fill it with the spinach cheese mixture. Place them in the pan the filled side up.
When you finish this, it is time to make the béchamel. In a skillet we put the butter at medium heat and add the flour. We cook for a minute or two and then we add the evaporated milk. We stir until the sauce starts to thicken and then we add the egg yolks and the spices and cheese. It should be a rather creamy batter, not too thick. If by any chance becomes thicker than what it should, you can add some milk to it. If it is too runny, you can add 1 tbsp of corn flour dissolved in a 1 tbsp of water.
When the béchamel is ready we throw it above the shells and we place it in the oven on the lowest part. We bake for approximately half an hour, or until it becomes golden brown on top.