Stuffed Pasta Spirals—Great Main Course for Make-Ahead Entertaining!

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Baked Pasta Spirals
When you’re entertaining is there anything better than an all-in-one main course that can be assembled a day ahead, then cooked at serving time? The following recipe for pasta spirals (which are really individual rolled lasagnas) stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto fall into  this special category.
The dish was inspired by a display of individual lasagnes that I spotted several years ago in the food section of the celebrated Bon Marché department store in Paris. During a long stay in France, I went often to La Grande Epicerie, and every time I passed the counter of take out dishes, was intrigued with the interesting fillings encased by single rolled sheets of pasta.
Pasta Spirals Ready To Go in the Oven
Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I created my own version, spreading a simple mix of ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, bits of prosciutto, and Italian parsley on individual cooked pasta noodles, then rolling the sheets into spirals and napping them with a zesty tomato sauce. This casserole can be popped into the fridge, and be ready and waiting the next day. Count on about a half hour to bake the dish, and serve it with easy sides—a mixed green salad and some warm crusty peasant bread. Voilà—a delicious meal with no last-minute fuss!

Pasta Spirals with Ricotta, Prosciutto, and Homemade Tomato Sauce
           
Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup red wine
Pasta
8 (about 8 ounces) dried lasagna sheets
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
1 2/3 cups ricotta
1 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley plus 2 tablespoons extra for garnish
Several grinds fresh black pepper
About 2 tablespoons olive oil
For sauce, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the onions and carrots, and sauté, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute more. Stir in oregano, basil, 1/2  teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes. Then add tomatoes, stock, and wine. Stir well to mix. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes or more. Remove and puree in a food processor, blender, or food mill. Return to the skillet. (Or, use an immersion blender and puree the mixture in the pan.) Taste and add more salt if needed.
For the pasta, cook the lasagne noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles well in a colander and place them on a damp kitchen towel to dry. Cover with another damp kitchen towel.
For the filling, mix together prosciutto, ricotta, 1 1/3 cups of the Parmesan, 1/3 cup chopped parsley, and black pepper in a mixing bowl. Spread a generous 1/3 cup of filling on one side of a pasta sheet, leaving a 1/4-inch border on all sides. Cut the sheet in half (with a knife  held parallel to the short sides), and then starting at a short end, roll each half into a cylinder. Repeat with remaining pasta sheets. You will have 16 pasta spirals.
Spread a third of the sauce on the bottom of a shallow 3-quart baking dish. (A 9 x 13 inch pyrex baking dish works well.) Arrange pasta spirals, seams side down, in the dish. Brush each spiral lightly with olive oil. Then nap the center of each spiral with sauce, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. (Pasta spirals can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate; bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.)
To bake, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake, covered with foil, until spirals are hot and cheese on top has melted, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove foil and sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons parsley over spirals.  Serve 4 rolls per person.
Serves 4.  
At the market note: Standard dried pasta sheets are about 2 inches by 10 inches, the right size for this recipe.
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