Conchiglioni Al Forno

Al Forno!

Sometimes, dinner ideas come in the weirdest kind of ways. For me, it happens at night, when my mind rambles between two dreams, remembering an anecdote or feeling a story germinating; I must admit, I have found myself waking up and typing a few ideas on my phone, fearing dawn would wipe them all out of my mind. “is it serious Doctor?”. But not this time. Last week, I was an absolute horror to be around, grumpy,grouchy, frustrated and ready to set off like a trapped animal. That is the consequence – at least for me – of tempering with the clock. “Putting the clock forward”, “summer time”, saving day light… What a lot of rubbish! And for 40 years, we have been, like sheep, putting our clock forward of one hour, for the next 6 months. The result? 4 days of pain, at the border of depression. On the third day, I decided that staying around wouldn’t do any good so I took my car, my camera and I headed west toward Sligo…

Choice 1
Benbulben from Mullaghmore

I arrived in Mullaghmore a couple of hours after, parked the car and still was hoping to cheer up. The weather was as temperamental as my moods, with showers of hail and rain. I drove around the small peninsula and the small migration of camper vans and happy Easter tourists only aggravated me. So I headed home, for another 150 kms. At the last minute, I decided to turn right toward Lissadel and the beautiful little harbour of Raghly ( well, it was beautiful 20 years ago, it is a little less quaint now)… I climbed the cobbles dune, fell but didn’t feel… I took a couple of pictures, with a bad heart, and finally drove home…

Cobbles of Raghly
Raghly Harbour

When I got home, I looked at the couple of pictures I had taken and it gave me an idea; you know what they say, “take the good with the bad” and all that. I had some conchiglioni pasta in the press and all the ingredients for a “Bolognaise Al Forno”, saving me the hard work of making Lasagne…

I chopped a couple of carrots and red onions first to give the “stew” a bit of colour and taste…

Choice 1
Finely Chopped Veg

I had bought some mince, about 500g, the previous Saturday on the market. I always start like this, put it in a hot pot with olive oil, breaking it up gently as it cooks, with the tip of a wooden spatula. Once cooked, add the chopped vegetables, salt and pepper and a small hand full of dried oregano…

Sweat it up!

Pour a glass of red wine in it, some organic tomato purée, stir well and cover with water; let it reduce until fully cooked. Start cooking your pasta, as they take about 15 minutes to cook in salted water. Drain and cool. In an oven dish, start filling the pasta with the Bolognaise mixture…

Stuffed Conchiglioni

What I intend to do now, is to make a cheesy white sauce with finely chopped leeks and grated Comté. The idea is to pour the white sauce on top, cover it with the rest of the Comté and Parmigiano Reggiano… Here is how it goes… First, get a couple of nice leeks, wash them first…

Organic Leeks

melt 100-130 g of butter in a pan and start sweating the leeks gently; it will give you a beautiful sweet sauce in the end…

Sweat the leeks in butter

Oh yes, and don’t forget salt and pepper, but my secret weapon is freshly grated nutmeg… It works really well!

Grated Nutmeg

Start adding a hand full of flour, and stir on a low heat while adding little by little some milk. Keep stirring until it feels smooth and the flour tastes cooked, grate 100 g in the sauce, a little splash of white wine works well too. Keep stirring until melted.

Leeky white sauce looking good!

I use the rest of the Comté for the top and some Parmigiano Reggiano, because you can’t really go wrong with them two. A nice farmhouse Cheddar would also work nicely, but not too strong!

Parmigiano Reggiano

Ok, where was I? Oh yes, pour the leeky white sauce over the stuffed pasta and cover with our grated cheeses…

Covering the shells, with white sauce and cheese

I baked the tray for about 30 minutes in an oven at 180 c. I like the dish with a bit of green but I only had spinach so I chopped the heavy leaves and reduced them in a pan with garlic, raw fresh cream and olive oil… And that’s how it happened…

Fresh chopped spinach
Reduce with a bit of fresh cream

Take the dish out of the oven and serve…

Al forno
That’s nice

Keep well, Eat happy, and don’t let life get to you too much, there is always a bit of comfort in the end!

Slán Tamall





24 thoughts on “Conchiglioni Al Forno

  1. I love your recipe and all your step-by-step pictures! My favorite one is when you add dried oregano on your beautifully cut veggies, it’s very artistic to my eyes!! and I have to admit you took me by surprise with your leek based white sauce, really didn’t expect that one, lol. Congrats on the final result, the melted cheeses give a stunning effect and I’m sure the spinach addition was a great last minute add-on! Your post started like “yeah… pasta…” but finished like “freaking amazing pasta, yeeeaaaah baby!” !! if you allow me such familiarities 😉

    1. 😀 I allow you, I am an easy kidda fella! The leek in the white sauce used to be my secret weapon for lasagne. Why not sharing I say! It was so rewarding, I did the same with spinach and ricotta a while back. Very nice! Thank you for reading as always! 🙂

      1. My pleasure 🙂 Oh and I forgot to say that I also love your plate, the blue decorated one, it has some character and gives strength to your dish too!

      2. That is the first piece of Delph I bought, in Galway, after my Mother died in 1997. She left a little money behind, I decided to buy something nice; 20 years later, they are still intact! A good £37 investment for the time! 🙂 Thank you!

      3. waouw, cool story, I didn’t expect that, but “knowing” you a little bit better lately through more “personal” posts, I’m actually not surprised for too long.

      4. I don’t want to get too hard on heavy emotions on the blog; but my project is a book, I have the title and the lay-out. It will be a bit different but heavier and deeper. I am though an uplifted kinda guy, I don’t let things drown me and believe that the tough punches life gives you should be used for good and tolerance, not bitterness. But sharing is good, no matter what! 🙂 😉

  2. Lovely post Franck,
    I fully understand those feelings of wanting to just go. Interesting that you went to Sligo and out to Mullaghmore. My long late grandfather (who I never knew) was from those parts. He led a flying column in the Arigna Mountains during the civil war. That area has many special memories for me too as, over many summers, we used to water ski down there and I made many friends in the area. Your photography is really wonderful. Keep up the excellent work and don’t let life get you down.
    p.s.: The food looks pretty great too.

    1. You are so kind Conor; I landed in Ireland 22 years ago this year in Sligo. I moved around, but I guess, this is my secret refuge. This year, I have spent half my life in Ireland. I met my wife to be in Sligo; a special place to me. But yeah, I miss the ocean sometimes; it makes things better all the time for me. An amazing place for sure. Have you done the “Horseshoe”?

      1. It is now sign posted; pass Drumcliff and a few short miles away turn right. There is a bit of a drive, 10 minutes, Benwiskin’s mad shape to your right. Take the horseshoe and once done, the second cross road ( go straight while crossing the Sligo-Donegal road) will bring you to Mullaghmore… Amazing!

      1. Saoirse and I love it. We even bought their cookery books, though there are a few missing bits in some of the recipes. Not a mistake Hungry Breton’s book will repeat, for sure!

  3. Gorgeous pics and description of landscape to match your mood. The pasta dish looks absolutely amazing!!! Love the leeky white sauce with nutmeg (my secret ingredient as well, especially with spinach! 😉). I really enjoy reading your posts and recipes…

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