In this vegetarian recipe, pasta is stuffed with kale, sweet peppers, feta cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts. An intensely flavour dish, the pasta is topped with fresh mozzarella and baked in a roasted pepper tomato sauce flecked with briny olives.
The dish includes an entire bunch of kale, an excellent source of vitamins (K, A, and C) and enough antioxidants to overlook the pasta carbs. Pan-frying tames kale’s assertive flavour and the brief cooking does not drain all its nutrients.
If you can’t find jumbo pasta shells, manicotti or cannelloni tubes are a nice alter-native, but pasta shells are easier to fill.
Makes 14-16 pasta shells | Serves 3 to 4 as a main dish
■ 3 Tbsp vegetable oil (such as grapeseed) or extra virgin olive oil
■ 1 cup minced shallots, about 2 larges hallots
■ 1 cup diced red pepper, about 1 medium
■ 6 cups finely chopped kale (stems removed), about 1 bunch
■ 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
■ 1/2 tsp kosher salt
■ 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
■ 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
■ 3 oz feta, about 1/2 cup crumbled
■ 1 cup finely chopped marinated artichoke hearts; remove tough leaves before measuring
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook shallots over medium-low heat until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Add the diced red pepper and mix to combine.
Add the kale, a handful at a time, adding more after each batch has reduced slightly.
Add the garlic, and stir for about 20 seconds, just until fragrant.
Transfer to a medium bowl and add the salt, chili flakes, lemon juice, feta, and artichoke hearts. Mix well and taste.
Season with additional salt or lemon if desired.
Set aside to cool.
Makes About 5 Cups
■ 2 medium red bell peppers
■ 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (such as grapeseed) or extra virgin olive oil
■ 2 cups roughly chopped onions, about 2 medium
■ 3 large cloves of garlic, sliced
■ 28 oz (796 mL) plum tomatoes
■ 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
■ 1/3cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
■ 1 tsp anchovy paste, optional
■ 1/2 tsp sugar
■ 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Place the whole peppers on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F (190°C) oven until the peppers have darkened in spots and started to collapse, 40-55 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking. Transfer to a bowl, cover with foil. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin, core and stem, and roughly chop the pepper.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet saucepan and cook onions over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for about 20 seconds until fragrant, then add tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Add the roasted pepper and remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly (you don’t want a thin watery sauce).
When the sauce has cooled enough so that you don’t burn yourself, transfer to a food processor, or blender, and process briefly—you want to retain some texture. Taste and season with additional salt if desired.
■ 14-16 jumbo pasta shells
■ 250 g mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Preheat oven 350ºF.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water (2Tbsp kosher salt per gallon water) to a roaring boil.
Add the pasta shells and cook according to the instructions, being mindful to cook just until al dente, tender but firm to the bite. Test a shell to determine its doneness.
Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cool water to cool the shells to prevent the pasta from cooking further.
Ladle about 1 cup of the pasta sauce into a baking dish. Stuff each cooled shell with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling. Place the stuffed shells, facing up, in the baking dish in a single layer.
Cover with about 1 cup of sauce, or more as desired. Place the mozzarella slices on top.
Tent the baking dish with foil and bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling has warmed and the cheese has melted.
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