We got our first CSA share the week before last: garlic scapes, baby turnips, bok choy, salad mix, and radishes. The first taste of real lettuce always rocks me a little after a winter of eating greens out of a box: sweet, and with what can only be described as a remarkable “lettuce-y-ness.” Warm climate inhabitants – insert eye roll here, and then count yourself blessed to have never had the word “lettuce-y-ness” cross your sunshine-loving lips.
CSA season means two things – 1. eating really well all summer, and 2. getting creative with vegetables I don’t normally cook and/or don’t normally cook 20 pounds of. Today’s recipe kicks off # 2 by putting the green leaves of the baby turnips to use. Turnip leaves are often neglected in my house – carefully washed, wrapped in paper towel, and then stowed away in the fridge, only to go unused, and finally wind up in the trash two weeks later. They’re one of those things I know is technically edible, but haven’t quite figured out how to get on my plate yet.
The recipe here is inspired by the most recent post on Heidi Swanson’s Site 101 Cookbooks, for an ultra-simple stuffed shell recipe. The photo alone sent me, nostalgia in tow, straight to the nearest pasta isle to buy a box of shells. The version here is a slightly more veggie-centered adaptation of the classic (shells, ricotta, tomato) with the addition of slivered turnip greens and lots of garlic scapes. Scapes are the curly flowers of the garlic plant (pictured below), available at farmer’s markets and in your CSA box this time of year – milder than garlic cloves; they add piles of flavor and texture to the shells. If you don’t have a CSA share you’re trying to work through this summer, by all means substitute a clove or two of regular garlic for the scapes and a few handfuls of chopped spinach or arugula for the turnip greens.
Makes one large pan of shells. Enough to serve 4 to 6. Keeps well refrigerated up to a week and makes delicious leftovers.
Ricotta, Turnip Green, and Garlic Scape Stuffed Shells
- 1 box large pasta shells (you’ll need 25-30 for the recipe – I usually cook them all since you loose some in the boil.)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large shallots, finely minced
- 5 garlic scapes, finely minced
- 1 bunch baby turnip greens, well washed, stems removed, and finely chopped
- 1 small tub whole milk ricotta cheese (15 oz)
- ½ cup granted parmesan cheese
- 1 quart your favorite homemade tomato sauce (or use a high quality store bought brand)
- Salt and pepper
- Chopped basil, parsley, and/or chives for topping
Boil your largest pot of water with a small handful of salt. Once boiling, add the shells and cook 12-15 minutes or until al dente (follow package instructions.) Drain, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, the shallots, and the scapes and sauté until the vegetables are tender and aromatic – 2 to 3 minutes. Add the turnip greens and suatee 30 seconds until just wilted. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the ricotta and parmesan cheese together with a little salt. Add the sautéed vegetables and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish (or equivalent.) Fill each shell with 1 rounded tbsp ricotta filling, and line the filled shells in the prepared pan. Pour over the remaining tomato sauce, and cover with tin foil. At this point, the dish can be refrigerated until 40 minutes before you are ready to serve. Bake 30 minutes covered, and then uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs and serve hot.