This baked Paccheri pasta is stuffed with a feta cheese and red pepper filling and covered with an easy but rich tomato sauce for a tasty Mediterranean dinner.
This baked paccheri recipe with a delicious feta cheese and pepper filing is one of the best Mediterranean pasta dishes I've tasted! Feta cheese pairs very well with peppers, something proven by the famous Greek Tirokafteri (Greek spicy feta cheese dip).
That's why I figured to use this classic Mediterranean combination and add some pasta and an easy tomato sauce in an attempt to make a meatless baked pasta recipe. Do I have to say how delicious this dish turned out?
Oh, and just in case you can't find paccheri, this dish works just as nice with manicotti.
The Paccheri or Manicotti Pasta
Paccheri is a type of pasta in the shape of a very large tube. They can be used in many recipes, either stuffed or not, and either baked or not. They are usually smooth, but I found these paccheri rigati which are streaked and I decided to use that instead because I though they would "catch" more pasta on their surface.
Manicotti are tubes of pasta usually about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. The pasta is boiled until nearly al-dente, stuffed, baked, and topped with sauce (usually tomato-based).
Here in Greece, a more popular type of pasta similar to manicotti is cannelloni which is stuffed with a meat sauce and topped with cheese or a bechamel sauce (or both). The most popular Greek pasta dish of all times however, is no other than Pastitsio (Greek pasta bake). No one ever regretted making it! 🙂
Whatever type of pasta you decide to use just remember to cook it 1 minute short than the directions on the packaging because baking it in the oven will soften it more.
The feta cheese and red pepper filling.
Feta saganaki is a well-known Greek appetizer, with baked feta cheese combined with a bit of olive oil, some oregano, and maybe a few slices of tomato and peppers. The result is a very aromatic dish with deep, complex flavors that you just can't get enough of. I “borrowed” this idea, and combined it with an interesting type of pasta, such as paccheri, that gets baked in the oven and becomes equally delicious as the feta saganaki.
The easy tomato sauce
Just use a good quality canned pomodorro tomatoes and blend them with an immersion blender or your food processor. Try not to omit the dried onion flakes, since it gives a valuable dimension to the sauce. Using dried oregano or fresh basil leaves will give different character to the final dish, but both options are equally delicious!
- This baked pasta recipe works very well either with paccheri, manicotti, or canelloni.
- Cook the pasta one minute short of the time given on the packaging.
- Try to find a good quality, Greek feta cheese!
- For the easy tomato sauce use canned pomodoro tomatoes and dried onion flakes.
Similar recipes you may like:
- Italian toasted breadcrumb and garlic spaghetti
- Creamy summer pasta with eggplant and tomatoes
- Creamy Greek pasta salad (with healthy yogurt dressing)
Paccheri (or manicotti) recipe with feta cheese & peppers
For the Pasta
- 8.8 oz (250 grams) tube pasta such as Paccheri or Manicotti (cooked 1 minute short than the packaging directions)
For the filling
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 red bell peppers (finely chopped)
- ½ medium-size eggplant (optional, finely chopped)
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (crashed)
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme or oregano
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups (about 10.5 oz/300 grams) crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup sliced and pitted olives
- Salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
For the easy tomato sauce:
- 1 can (14 oz/400 grams) tomatoes, (pureed)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 10-12 chopped fresh basil leaves)
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- Pinch of pepper
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- A casserole dish with dimensions approximately 8x11 inches (20x28 cm) or a round pan 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter.
- Make the filling: Heat a pot over medium/high heat and add the the olive oil, the red peppers, and the eggplant. Cook stirring occasionally until soft (about 4-5 minuteand then add the onion and the garlic cloves. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent (3-4 minuteand add the wine, the thyme (or oregano), and the olives. Cook until all of the wine is evaporated and remove from the heat. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Add the feta, a pinch of salt, and the black pepper, and mix well. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.
- Make the easy tomato sauce: transfer all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine.
- Preheat your oven to 356°F (180°C)
- Make the stuffed paccheri: Lightly oil your baking dish and spread some tomato sauce over the surface. Fill the paccheri with the feta and pepper filling and transfer them to the pan, placing the one next to the other. Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over the pasta.
- Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for 10-15 minutes more. Optionally serve with grated parmigiano reggiano. Eat!
- If you don't like eggplant, substitute with zucchini or with one more red pepper.
- Use vegetable broth if you don’t have any wine.
- You can puree the tomatoes inside the can using an immersion blender, or transfer them to your food processor.
- You can fill the pasta with a small spoon or you can transfer the filling to a piping bag and pipe it into each pasta tube. (The vegetables should be finely chopped to fit through the piping bag).
- Alternatively you can use the filling between layers of lasagna.
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