artichoke heart stuffed shells with citrus ricotta bechemel

artichoke heart stuffed shells with citrus ricotta bechemel

I never thought of myself as someone who liked artichokes.  My mom has always made an artichoke dip for a Christmas dinner we have every year with friends, and people went into a panic the year she thought about bringing something else instead.  But it’s not really for me.

I always thought it was because of the artichokes, but I think maybe it’s because it is a dip and I prefer my chips sans extra flavoring.  A couple of months ago Gerrit brought home an artichoke and I got to cooking with it, not 100% sure what I should do, but winging it as I went along (after making sure I was properly cleaning it) and frying it in some olive oil with with herbs.  It didn’t go exactly as planned, but what cooked properly was soft and flavorful without being oily and with that slightly browned taste that comes from fried edges.

pasta shells

heart stuffed shells with bechemel

Fast forward to now (when I finally found where the frozen artichokes are hidden in the store) and we have this dish.  While it looks a little daunting, so many of the steps can be done at once (I cooked my artichokes while I was making the bechemel), and then the entire stuffing comes together pretty quickly in the food processor.  The bechemel sauce has ricotta and lemon added (plus I added a bit of orange, reminiscent of one of my favorite Italy dishes this summer) to make it absolutely licking-it-off-the-spoon-good and giving the dish a fresh flavor that I’m sure I’ll be grateful for when I make it again in the midst of dark winter days.

heart stuffed shells with citrus ricotta bechemel

Heart Stuffed Shells with Citrus Ricotta Bechemel
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (or online)

I didn’t change much here, just a few ingredients.  I replaced the onions with shallots to make the flavors a little milder, and I added some orange juice to the sauce to make it less “lemon” and more “citrus” because I couldn’t stop thinking about some ravioli with citrus aroma (whatever that is) that I had in Italy.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4

For the pasta and stuffing:
18 jumbo pasta shells
Olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small shallots, peeled and diced
12 oz. frozen artichokes, thawed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups milk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper

Parlsey or basil for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the shells and cook according to package directions.  Drain, and toss with splash of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together while you prepare everything else.
2. In a medium-sized sauce pan (or in the same pot you cooked the pasta in) melt the butter over medium heat until it turns a nutty brown color.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the diced shallot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are tender and browned, about 5-6 min.  Then add the artichoke hearts.  Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  (If you forgot to thaw your artichoke hearts ahead of time, cover the pot while they cook, and cook for just a bit longer until they are tender.)  Add the wine and cook until wine just disappears, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes or so (you could make the bechemel while this cools if you’d like to).  Then add the contents of the pot to the bowl of a food processor. Add the Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and a pinch of pepper.  Process until the filling is almost smooth.
4. Next, make the bechemel.  In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add flour and whisk, cooking for 1 minute.  Then add the garlic and cook about 1 more minute, continuing to whisk.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add milk a tablespoon or two at a time, whisking constantly.  After a few additions, add milk in larger quantities.  Bring to boil and let thicken, stirring constantly.  Once it has thickened, reduce heat to low.  Stir in the ricotta, lemon juice, orange juice, salt, and pepper.  Let sit over low heat while you finish anything else for the dish that needs to be finished, coming back to stir occasionally.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pour 2 cups of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, spreading it out evenly.  Scoop about 1 tablespoon filling into each shell and nestle shells down into the sauce, seam side up.  Spoon the rest of the sauce evenly over the shells.
6. Cover the dish with foil.  Bake 30 minutes.  Then remove the foil and bake for 15 more minutes.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with fresh parlsey or basil if you’d like (or a little extra cheese is never a bad idea).

2 Responses

  1. Kathryn October 17, 2013 at 3:50 am |

    When I first read the title, I thought you had made shells stuffed with animal heart and I was a little taken aback so I’m very relieved to see that it’s artichoke hearts that you used! I like how rich and creamy this pasta is yet fresh with the hint of citrus in there – a great winter dish.

    Reply

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