Conchiglioni al Forno Recipe
You can fill pasta shells with practically anything, so having a free hand I decided on something light: a "trito" or chopped mixture, of fish and vegetables.
You can see my base ingredients, enough for 4 for a light lunch or for 2 greedy people, in the second picture in the gallery. I used:
- a medium sized Adriatic hake, a lovely firm white fish that is cheap in Italy because it is not particularly appreciated, whereas in Spain it is a much sought after delicacy
- a leek, green part only, sliced
- a carrot, diced
- a "leaf" of fresh bulb fennel, also diced
- some fresh thyme
Conchiglioni is pronounced "con - kill -YAWN - eee" and Al Forno means baked
I softened the vegetables in good olive oil and put some pasta water on to boil. I rinsed the fish and cut it into chunks and when the pasta water came to the boil I lowered the heat and popped the fish pieces in to poach gently. After 4 minutes or so I scooped them back out and left them to cool a little before removing skin and bones using my hands - the best way to detect any small bones that you really don't want to find when you eat the filled Conchiglioni.
I had been keeping an eye on the vegetables and adding a little of the pasta water from time to time so they softened without frying. Now I added the flaked fish, seasoned them well with salt and pepper, and cooked everything together for a few minutes for the flavours to blend. Then I turned off the heat so the mixture cooled down a little..
I then salted the water and tipped in about 250g of shells (8 oz) - rather more than I needed but a few might tear while cooking - and remembered to turn on the oven to preheat at 180 Â°C ( 350Â° F). The packet said to cook the pasta for 15 minutes so I timed them for 10, then scooped them up with a one handled sieve, shook off the water and left them to cool a little. I proceeded to fill them, still using my fingers - food can and should be touched with clean bare hands, as far as I am concerned - and placed them one by one in the oiled dish in which they would complete their cooking.
I added a little pasta water to the bottom of the dish to help finish the cooking, covered with foil and baked them all for about 15 minutes.
I did add a little water - my filling was not at all wet so they needed some extra - and left them in until the top was well coloured and had developed some of those special crunchy bits. If you'd prefer a wetter filling you can add a little cream or bechamel, just mix it into the fish and vegetable mixture.
Once out of the oven I scattered over a few thyme leaves and grated over a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. Yes I know there is a great ban on using cheese on fish Primi but many traditional baked and stuffed fish recipes pair cheese and fish - I'll post at least one here in future - so I went ahead, it was just a little.
I have to tell you it was an exceptionally good dish, tasty, healthy and supremely satisfying. You can serve a large portion as a one dish meal, a small portion as a Primo, or just a few prettily plated as Antipasto. The Conchiglioni are also good cold, and can be served individually in small paper cups as delicious nibbles to accompany drinks.
Buom Appetito, go buy a fish!
How good does this recipe look to you?