Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach
I caught the lovely Giada making this recipe on her show Everyday Italian. It's becoming one of my favorite cooking shows, since she does a lot of wonderful Italian cooking that's not pasta. This one, however, is. And I had an overbought 15-oz container of ricotta cheese looking for something to do.
Conveniently, Trader Joe's carries pre-cubed pancetta, though I didn't buy enough. Inconveniently, Trader Joe's doesn't carry grated asagio cheese, so I made do with TJ's Quattro Fromaggio, a mixture of parmesan, asagio, fontina, and provolone cheese.
The ricotta and spinach filling is flavored with nutmeg. Having little regard for exact spice measurements, my 1/4 teaspoon spilleth over, and I didn't think much of it. After all, I do that all the time when baking. But this isn't baking. POW! That packed a punch! The back of my throat is still buzzing. I have a new respect for nutmeg now.
I made the shells and filling, stuffed the shells, put them in a baking dish, and refrigerated them a few days ago. Then today, I made the cheese sauce and baked the whole dish. This worked well, especially for we newly anointed "working moms" who are relentless drilled to "plan ahead" "make a menu" "cook everything on the weekend." For the .01% of those moms who can actually do that, this dish works pretty well.
I forgot to take a photo until I'd already served some.
The tally? I believe it was well-received all around, though grating parmesan cheese with a hand-held grater over any food greatly increases its value to little kids. My sons claimed to like it, though they didn't eat much (though that could be because I was forced to leave them alone during dinner, and crawling under the table and clinking silverware and shouting at the top of their lungs and breaking every rule is far more compelling than Mom's good cooking). The real test came from my husband: he liked it!
Hopefully no one will notice that I used the same filling for a lasagna they're going to get later this week.