Conchiglioni Butternut Squash “Al Forno”

Conchiglioni "Al forno"

I went for a walk last Sunday; “a walk?” says my alter-ego ” more like a freaking pilgrimage!”. Ok, ok, a pilgrimage so… I like to sleep with the window open, no matter what the season, how cold or windy the weather is, I listen to the sound – or rather the consequences- of our blue home rotating… I woke up and all was calm, the sky was blue and I found myself inextricably drawn outside, I wanted to feel it, be a part of it… I put my walking shoes on, and like “Travis” in “Paris, Texas”, I started to walk…

Cardinal Points

When I am in that mood, I keep on going; I hate turning back, I get bored so I try to do a loop, a great way to discover your neighbourhood, a way to reflect, a “communion” a friend of mine called it once. I realised that my little spin was going to take me on a 12 km journey, on hard tarmac. I didn’t care, the mind was talking, and I felt a wee project drawing itself near my parish of Dromone, the old church and grave, a Divine motivation, a pilgrimage, self inflicted flagellation and pain… When my mind is set on something, I never turn back. Us Bretons, are known in France as the most stubborn folks on the planet… Hence the expression “Breton head”…

Dromone Old Church – Oldcastle, Meath.

There is a legend attached to this land, that a man was told that his son will drown in the near by lake so he built his castle as far as he could from the water; the son died anyway… In a bath tub… Humbling, but still, a legend. There is something much more sinister though, an unmarked grave, where the poor and starving, the destitute of the Irish famine of the mid 19th century, the workers of the infamous “Workhouses” had been laid to rest. An English remnants of colonial self inflicted ills and misery… A vicious genocide from another time, that Peace and compassion is still healing. I was at the unveiling of the stone a few years ago, when all gathered to pay tribute; Protestants, Catholics, “blown ins”, and people like me, foreign witnesses to someone else’s history, sympathetic pilgrims paying a little respect to the deed and madness of men. A guy played the uilleann pipe in the cold and blustery Spring afternoon, and we all went for a quiet drink… That is how nice the place I live in is… And all get on… A woman in her mid 50’s told me how she had lost her child at birth… She told me while a tear ran along her emotionless face how they had to wait for the night to come to bury her child. I guess that day brought back some powerful and more recent memories…

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” Unknown to us, but never forgotten”

Like Paul Brady – Irish folk singer- said in one of his songs ” But hey, don’t listen to me! This wasn’t meant to be no sad song!”. “We’ve heard so much of that before”… We sure did. I just wanted to cast an eye on the past, a wee peep on what is going to make sense…

A peep through to past ( Hey, it looks like Ireland’s map!)

I don’t know if you ever had that dream ( nightmare), when you need to run away but your legs are too heavy, victims of a slow motion movement that your brain won’t allow you to control. That is the way I felt on the last mile of my walk, legs and heart were heavy from two different reasons; stomach was running on low and I needed to refill… Fast… And yet, I went the long way around about it… And I don’t know if it was my self education through Serbian born Enki Bilal that spoke to me, or “that” girl I once knew from Budapest, her hardship, Enki documenting it in his politically charged left drawings and modern literature. I know that “Cumú” knew what hunger was, and she introduced me to butternut squash; I respected her; the people of the East, who could do a feast with nothing… She said to me once ” You don’t know? I’ll show you! You roast it, with honey… Yes? Seriously you don’t know?”… Then she laughed at my ignorance. A special moment between two emigrants, a present, a rich gift that Ireland gave me, time and time again… It took me two days to recover from my escapade…

Butternut Squash and garlic bulb at the ready…

I put the halved butternut squash with a full bulb of garlic and put it in the oven; 200c for at least 30 minutes… While this happens, I took a bunch of local organic spinach, chopped it and cooked it in a pot with salt and olive oil…

Local organic spinach

The spinach will go with the butternut squash once cooked. While this is being done, you can start to work on your tomato sauce. I chopped two shallots, a red onion, 3 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, dill and fresh nutmeg. Fry the lot in olive oil, with salt, and then pour 75cl of passata ( sieved tomatoes) plus at least the same volume of water. Let the lot simmer for at least an hour!

The actors of our tomato sauce…

Ok, we have enough time to work on the cheese sauce… In a pan, put 100g of butter, let it melt and add a handful of buckwheat flour; low heat until thick, add a bit of milk and keep stirring. When smooth, grate a nice dose ( 100g) of Irish farmhouse cheddar… Essentially a cheesy white sauce…  ( Béchamel, or Mornay).

“Cheesy sauce”

Gather your Conchiglioni ( or shells) in a dish to give you an idea on how many you’ll need, then cook them from boiling point for 14 minutes…

Dried Conchiglioni for good measure…

In a bowl, scoop the butternut squash, add the roasted garlic and spinach… Squash them together and fill the pasta…

Cooked butternut squash…

Scoop the flesh into a bowl and squash the spinach and garlic together…

“The mix”

Stuff the cooked pasta with the mix. It is actually quite easy by pinching the cooked shell;  a tea spoon will do, I just used my fingers…

Conchiglioni "Al forno"
Stuffed shells

Pour the tomato sauce on top…

Cover with homemade tomato sauce

Pour the “white sauce” on top of the tomato… Then cover with Parmigiano Reggiano ( Parmesan).

To finish, I would like to dedicate this post to Rachel from Seattle, blogger of

Emerging Adult Eats who gave me the idea for this recipe… You girl rock!

I didn’t leave you with a final pasta dish as I think they look like a car crash in a tunnel… This one will do nicely….

Conchiglioni "Al forno"
Conchiglioni and butternut squash…

Keep Well and Eat Happy,

Slán Tamall





6 thoughts on “Conchiglioni Butternut Squash “Al Forno”

  1. It’s hard to believe you can go on a little walk and see all of this beautiful scenery. Seems like a dream! Speaking of, I HAVE had that nightmare, except it’s typically other people moving too slow as I’m trying to save them from burning buildings or something… I’m so pleased you tried the butternut squash stuffed shells! I love how your squash is a bit more pureed & I can only imagine how decadent the cheese sauce was. Cheers!

    1. You are welcome, thank you! I remember you speaking about collapsing building in an older post. Yes, I live in an area charged with history, a cute little spot too! Keep well, chat soon and thanks again for the idea 😉

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