It’s getting to that stage in Winter when all enthusiastic gardeners, especially those growing vegetables, are itching for the start of spring when the warm weather gives our plants a kick start and the variety for harvest increases dramatically. In spring we plant… and plant and plant and dream of crisp salads, fresh flavoured pastas and sun warmed produce eaten straight from the plant. But that is more than a month away still and as the last weeks of winter loom before us we can but enjoy the few things that are thriving in the garden.
So for my Winter Wednesday post I’m enjoying going out with my basket and filling it to the brim with green glossy silverbeet, not the most glamorous of vegetables but a definite unsung hero in my books.
I made the most delicious filled pasta shells with this lot, using some home grown basil and tomatoes that I had in the freezer (like a little taste of summer frozen in time). The silverbeet was quickly blanched and mixed with feta and ricotta and made the perfect filling for my giant pasta shells – but would work equally well in cannelloni or even in a vegetarian lasagna.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g tinned tomatoes, chopped (for equivalent fresh tomatoes)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup plain flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
450g silverbeet, chopped (or however much you have in the garden)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp nutmeg
15-20 giant pasta shells (or cannelloni if you’d prefer)
1 cup grated cheese
Preheat over to 180 degrees. Grease an ovenproof dish.
To make the sauce: heat oil in a large frying pan, add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 203 mins, then add tomato, tomato paste, sugar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 20 mins or until slightly thickened, then stir in the basil.
To make the white sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan, add flour and cook for 1 min. Remove from heat, gradually add milk and whisk until smooth. Return to the heat and stir until thick, add the nutmeg and simmer for 3 mins or until sauce boils and thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the filling: place silverbeet in a large saucepan of water, cover and cook for 3 mins until wilted, refresh under cold water. Squeeze out excess moisture and chop finely. Transfer to a bowl and add ricotta, feta and egg and mix well. Spoon mixture into shells.
Spread half the white sauce onto the base of the dish, followed by half the tomato sauce. Arrange the shells in a single layer and then top with remaining white sauce and tomato sauce. Sprinkle on the cheeses and bake for 40 mins.
With some white sauce and napoli sauce top and bottom, sprinkled with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven, this cheesy wonder was loved by both husband and Miss Two despite the fact that it was (yet another) meatless meal.
While winter may be a more dormant season in the veggie patch, there are still some delights to be had and I intend to take advantage of these while I can. Anyone else enjoying some winter treasures?