By: Deanna Linder
When I first moved to Israel I really wasn’t much of a cook. I had just finished four years of college, where I lived in a house with six girls, none of whom was much into eating anything other than take-out (including myself). Then I move here, and spend much of my time at my then-boyfriends’ house (now husband) and discover a home full of home cooked meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all eaten at home, and there was always a plate of food, covered in plastic wrap, waiting by the microwave to be heated up for the younger kids as they got home from school.
After four years of junk, I really appreciated this way of eating. I started cooking myself and my mother-in-law took notice and bought me my first Hebrew cookbook “Fast and Fabulous” by Israeli cookbook guru, Benny Saida. I started preparing dishes from the book, and I took a major liking to his recipe for pesto.
Fast forward about seven years, when starting out as a food stylist, I get a call from Danya Weiner, a photographer who I was really interested in working with, to shoot a cookbook with Benny Saida.
This is a recipe of new beginnings and coming full circle. I would like to thank all of our readers for your kind words following the birth of Omri. We are both feeling great, he’s already enjoying going to restaurants, and he’s coming to his first Matkonation photo shoot tomorrow.
This Sunday we are posting a recipe that is part of a competition sponsored by the Israeli food company, Sugat. If you can read Hebrew, go to their facebook page , and click ‘like’ under our recipe (if you like it of course)!
Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Pesto
Ingredients for 6 servings:
For the Pesto:
This is similar to Benny’s recipe, but changed a bit after years of making it.
½ cup olive oil
2 cups basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, halved
⅓ cup grated parmesan
⅓ cup pine nuts
Salt and fresh ground pepper
¾ cup heavy cream
- In a large pan, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil, basil leaves and garlic, for about 2 minutes, just until the basil has absorbed the oil.
- Place the basil, garlic and oil mixture into a food processer with the remaining ingredients, except the heavy cream. Mix until the mixture is well blended into a paste. Add more olive oil if it is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the heavy cream, and continue to mix, until all ingredients are combined. Season to taste.
For the cheese filling:
10 ounces (300 grams) ricotta cheese
8 ounces (250 grams) grated mozzarella
3½ ounces (100 grams) grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and fresh ground pepper
8 ounces (250 grams) conchiglioni (large shells) pasta
- In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the pasta for about 5-7 minutes, until just softened. Drain pasta from water and coat with a bit of olive oil, so that they don’t stick together.
- Once the pasta has cooled off enough so that you can hold it with your hands, begin filling each shell with the cheese filling.
Prepare the dish:
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
- Pour a thin layer of the pesto into a large baking dish, just so that it covers the bottom . Place the stuffed shells into the dish, one next to the other (not overlapping). Pour the remaining pesto evenly on top of the shells.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden.