I know what you are thinking – this blonde is blonder than you ever thought could be possible. Ha. You are mistaken.

Stuffing pasta? Old news…. Ravioli?  Been there, done that, got the proverbial t-shirt. This is whole different ball game. If any of you have been to Italy, you will be familiar with the huge range of pasta shapes that are available to buy, most are trinkets and souvenirs for the family back home – and will never end up being eaten, but end up on a shelf until some hungry teenager cracks after a night out and devours the lot, smothered in cheap pesto. Yeah, I know the form.

But this recipe doesn’t involve the finest quality pasta shells from some tiny village in the deepest and darkest depth of Italy, Waitrose do a very good version of their own. Just make sure that they are capable of accommodating the sausage meat bolognese in the individual shells – then when they burst in your mouth, you get the full experience of the shell & bolognese combined.

I apologise for the slightly sporadic measurements in this recipe. When I was given a few pointers on Italian cooking by one very enthusiastic Italian lady with polished jet black hair, dripping in silver jewellery and sporting an almost illegal tan, I knew I had to take her word for it. Italians don’t do measurements – they don’t like the precision of it all and prefer to have to confidence to throw things in & use their own flavour intuition.

Ingredients

Olive Oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

Springs of rosemary or oregano , chopped and some extra for garnish

125g (ish) small flat mushroom (I couldn’t find any of these so I just used big flat Portobello ones) OR a small sliced aubergine – if, like some of my friends, you don’t mushrooms.

6 coarse good quality sausages, skinned. (This is a bit of a weird job. See photos below)

175ml red wine – I just put in about a glass full, and then some more. Everyone likes wine.

300ml  (a guesstimate) passatta

4 tbsp/ big squirt of sun-dried tomato paste

250g large dried pasta shells such as conchiglioni rigati

Half-fat single cream (I always used crème fraiche instead – girl, healthier, etc)

Grated cheese

Salad to serve

Start by preheating your oven – about 200 C. In a deep pan, fry up your finely chopped onion in some olive oil.

I had a little panic that my onion wouldn’t suffice so after a rummage at the bottom of the fridge, I found a couple of shallots and threw them in too.

With scissors, finely cut the rosemary into the pan, saving a bit for garnish. Fry gently for 10 mins. Add the mushrooms or aubergine & cook until all are soft. Put in a bowl and set aside.

Skin the sausages – this is a bit of a strange job & a bit gross, but necessary if you want to get the whole flavour of the sausagemeat in the shells.

Crubmble the meat into the pan over a high heat, until browned all over. Reduce the heat & add the wine. Leave to simmer & reduce by half.

Mix in onion mixture to pan & add passatta & sun-dried tomato paste. Leave to bubble for 10 mins more. I add a generous sprinkling of sugar to bring out reduce bitterness & flavour of tomatoes.

As sauce is simmering, cook the pasta shells in boiling water until tender. Drain well & rinse under the cold tap.

Fill each individual shellwith the sausagemeant mixture & lay in an overproof dish, creating layers as you go along. I put the pasta shells hump-side up so they fit neatly in the dish.

Drizzle with creme fraiche or cream, top with some grated cheese if want and sprinkle the last of the chopped rosemary.

Season & then bake for 30 mins.

Serve with salad.