This is such a brilliant idea that I can’t believe I haven’t seen it elsewhere (including my own mind): stuffed shells using a thin layer of poached onion in place of pasta. When cooked, the onions layers curl up to look and act every bit like a pasta shell, and provide a much more interesting textural and flavorful contrast to the filling. Even B., an avowed onion-hater who normally wouldn’t touch something like this with a ten-foot pole, scarfed them down and, dare I say, even enjoyed them. An actual serving is bigger than the photo above (I didn’t want to crowd the plate), and goes great with a simple garden salad. (The one above features freshly picked grated beets—our first harvest of anything other than lettuce since about August.)
As below, this makes 4 servings. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.*
• 4 onions: $1
• 3 1/2 oz. crumbled feta cheese: $2
• 2 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used frozen turkey stock because it was all I had on hand, but it was a little too strong for this dish, so I don’t recommend it): $0
• 1 1/2 cups dry white wine: $1.32
• 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs: $0
• 3 small tomatoes: 40 cents
• 1 1/3 cups Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped: 20 cents
• 3 green onions, thinly sliced: 10 cents
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press or minced: 2 cents
• 3 T olive oil: 18 cents
• Butter for greasing the dish: 2 cents
• 3/4 tsp salt & black pepper to taste: 2 cents
TOTAL: $5.26/4 = $1.32/serving
Butter a small-ish oven-proof dish (I used a 9×9 Pyrex) and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put the stock and wine in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a strong simmer.
Trim the tops and bottoms of the onions and peel them. Cut in half pole-to-pole and separate about 2-3 of the thinner outer layers of each half, setting them aside carefully. Repeat with the other onions. Reserve the onion insides for another use; it’s the perfect amount for roasted garlic soup (for which you can also use the left-over onion-poaching liquid from this dish) or Flemish beef & beer stew.
Place the outer onion layers in the stock a few at a time and simmer until pliable, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool slightly. As you can (sort of) see, they’ll start to curl up into shells on their own.
Use the large holes on a cheese grater to grate the tomatoes. I realize this sounds patently ridiculous but it totally works—you’ll have de-skinned them and crushed them at the same time. (Discard the skin.)
Combine the tomatoes, bread crumbs, parsley, feta, olive oil, garlic, green onions, salt and pepper in a bowl.
Fill each of the onion “shells” generously with stuffing. Pull the sides together so you end up, in Ottolenghi’s words, with a “fat cigar shape.” Place the stuffed onions seam side down in the prepared dish.
Pour enough stock over the onions to just cover the bottom of the dish and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the onions are starting to brown. (I had to add a little more stock in the middle because the pan had totally dried out.) Serve immediately.