Thursday, 23 June 2011

Prosciutto and Caprese Pasta Shells

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Multicultural Inspiration from... Italy


A week or so ago, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Agata from Amore Cucina, a cooking school she runs from her home, specialising in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cooking. Agata's philosophy on cooking is that it should come from the heart, and the kitchen should be the heart of our homes (couldn't agree more on both points!). 

While I was perusing her website looking for a a cooking class for myself to take, I came across an advertisement looking for cooking tutors experiences in Italian home cooking, passionate about sharing their skills. What an opportunity - I felt like Agata had written then advertisement especially for me! A few emails back and forth later, we decided to meet up so she could explain a bit more about what she was looking for, and for me to ask all of my questions. Half an hour later, I was saying goodbye to Agata with a hug and a grin from ear to ear - I would be joining her in the kitchen to teach some classes of my own!!!

I couldn't be more excited about this wonderful opportunity, and as I fare welled Agata, I told her I was heading home to work on some preliminary cooking class ideas, but not before lunch. I told her about the giant pasta shells, giant conchigli, or oyster shells, that I had just bought, and my plans to stuff them full of whatever I could find and roast them in the oven. 

My drive home began with a phone call to dad, then to mum (I couldn't call Sous-Jeff as he was playing footy) to tell them my good news. I drove home with a grin from ear to ear, and after speaking to mum, I had a great lunch idea. One of my favourite and simplest things that mum throws together as part of a quick family dinner is a Caprese Salad, which is basically just tomatoes, mozzarella or bocconcini, fresh basil and olive oil. I love the sweetness of the tomato and basil mixed with the milky, refreshing taste of the bocconcini - I used to eat dozens of little bocconcini balls at a time as a younger child! So off I go, with a quick stop at the deli on the way home to pick up some prosciutto to add the salty aspect that I love so much in a pasta dish, and here's how it went...

First up, I pre-heated the oven to 180°C and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, in with the shells - I used 10 for myself (I was hungry!).


While the pasta is cooking away, I get out my finely sliced prosciutto (about 50g) and prepare the caprese salad, dicing one large tomato, 7 cherry bocconcini and a few fresh leaves of basil, as well as a bit of rock salt and olive oil.



Once the shells are cooked al dente (not too soft as they still have to spend a little time in the oven), I drain them and let them cool enough to be handled. Then, I stuff each shell with a little prosciutto...


... and the caprese mix...


... and arrange them in a baking dish, stuffed side up...


... before finally topping with finely grated parmesan cheese...


... and getting it into the oven!


My shells were left in the oven just long enough for the parmesan and bocconcini to melt and brown slightly on top.


Apologies for the "smokey" picture - I couldn't wait for it to cool down and stop steaming to take the pictures because it just smelt so good! As I mentioned before, I absolutely love salty flavours with pasta, but I also love the sweetness and creaminess of the Caprese salad. The two extremes married perfectly underneath the sharpness of the parmesan and the soft pasta shells. My only issue with these is that they were impossible to eat properly and with class - I gave up on my cutlery after the first one and ate the rest with my hand, like little sandwiches! I also tried them again two days later with Sous-Jeff, this time with roasted butternuts, bocconcini, thyme and prosciutto again - the super sweetness of the butternut was beautiful with the salt prosciutto. I can't wait to try even more combinations of this! Any other suggestions?!

2 comments:

  1. These look sooooo delicious. Great idea for stuffed shells!

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  2. Ooh I had something similar recently and I absolutely adored them! Well done with your dish and it sounds like you were so inspired by your meeting with Agata! :D

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