Large pasta shells look daunting but they are actually very easy to work with. For this recipe I use conchiglie (or conch shells) and while stinging nettle is in season, I use nettle whenever and wherever possible. This recipe is very easy to make especially if you have tomato sauce on hand and it looks like you have gone to no end of trouble. The dish can be made a few hours ahead of time.
24 conchiglie (add a couple extra in case any tear while boiling or filling)
2 cups tomato sauce (your own or purchased)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 large egg
4 cups stinging nettle blanched and drained
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon Balsamico Bianco or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1.Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the conchiglie and cook according to package instructions. Refresh under cold water.
2.Spread tomato sauce on the bottom of a large flame proof dish that will comfortably hold all the shells.
3.Put the stinging nettle into a sieve and squeeze out any excess moisture. Put into a food processor with ricotta cheese, garlic, egg, vinegar and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
4.Spoon stinging nettle mixture into conchiglie using either a pastry bag or, alternatively, fill with a spoon. Arrange the conchiglie over the tomato sauce leaving very small spaces between them. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
5.Heat in the oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling hot.
Serve with a big green salad and a nice Pinot Noir.