My cousins Charmayne and Keith came for dinner tonight. I haven't seen Keith, who lives in Virginia, in eons, so this was a special occasion for me. Of course, it's always special to see Charmayne, but she lives in Sacramento. I wanted an easy dinner to prepare, so I would be well rested and ready for the hilarity that ensued once they arrived. We talked about serious subjects too. Charmayne couldn't understand why I refuse to watch The Hills, but am a loyal viewer of The Real Housewives of Orange County. It turned out that Keith also watches the surgically enhanced and make-up spackled ladies in Orange County.
I decided to make a baked pasta dish, and my first thought was to make lasagna. Instead, I made shells stuffed with lamb, feta cheese, and spinach, because I knew it would be was easy to assemble them the night before and store them in the fridge. I don't have lamb very often, so I didn't substitute another meat for it. Frankly, lamb has such a distinctive taste, nothing can replace it successfully, in my opinion. The dish was very good, but the next time I make it, I'll add golden raisins. I think the sweetness would be great with the richness of the lamb and the tangy feta cheese.
This dish is my submission to Presto Pasta Night, which was started by the wonderful Ruth at Once Upon A Feast. Each Friday Ruth has a recap of wonderful pasta recipes from bloggers from all over the world. So, do stop by and check it out.
Now, I have to clean up the kitchen.
Pasta Shells Stuffed With Lamb, Feta Cheese, And Spinach
(Williams-Sonoma Complete Pasta Book)
1-1/4 pound ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
8 ounces spinach stemmed and coarsely chopped (or use defrosted chopped spinach squeezed dry)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3-1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
18 jumbo pasta shells
3 Tablespoons roasted pine nuts
Cook the lamb in a skillet over medium heat, breaking it up until it's no longer pink. Drain off excess fat and add garlic and spinach and cook until spinach is wiled--about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Then add the lemon zest and feta cheese and toss to mix. Add salt and pepper if necessary.
Cook the shells according to package direction in well salted water until almost al dente. Drain carefully and run cold water over them.
Fill each pasta shell with the filling and place in a baking pan. You can keep it in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, until you're reading to bake it. When ready to bake, top with half of the spiced red sauce and the pine nuts. Bake until heated through, but not browned. Serve on individual plates and top with more sauce.
Spiced Red Sauce
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. stir and set aside until ready to use it on the shells.