Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

New ShellsLet me be clear about something. I love stuffed pasta shells. A cinch to make, they are the perfect blend of ricotta cheese, spinach, & pasta. I realize that some may feel that the same could be said for lasagna and they’d be correct, for the most part. My family’s lasagna recipe, however, doesn’t include ricotta, making it relatively unique, as far as lasagna goes. What’s more, we use very little ricotta in other recipes so these shells are a real stand out. In my last post, I described making ricotta and shared a recipe that yields about 2 pounds of the cheese. Well, that’s a lot of ricotta, as I soon found out. When all was said and done,  I had filled four 9 x 9″ aluminum cake pans with 12 shells apiece. (1 tray was destined for the oven; 2 for delivery to friends; and 1 was frozen.) I used that cooking experience as a guide for today’s recipe and halved the recipe, using 1 pound of ricotta. By the way, if you’re vegetarian or limiting red meat in your diet, use a marinara sauce instead of one with meat.

*     *     *

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe

total time: about 90 minutes. yield: about 24 shells.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ricotta (1/2 of home-made ricotta recipe)
  • 1 – 10 oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well-drained
  • 1 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 quart pasta sauce, marinara or meat-based
  • water
  • 1 box jumbo pasta shells, cooked following package directions, reserved in cold water.
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella, or more to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350*. Butter one9 x 13″ baking dish/pan.
  2. Place ricotta, spinach, parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and nutmeg into a bowl and combine, either by hand or using a stand mixer, until well-blended.
  3. Add about 2/3 of the sauce to the baking dish with a little water.
  4. One by one, fill each shell with 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of the filling mixture and place in the baking dish.
  5. When the tray is filled, drizzle remaining sauce over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with mozzarella and cover with aluminum foil.
  6. Place on oven’s center rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 minutes more.
  7. Remove from oven, let rest at least 5 minutes, and serve.

Variations Instead of spinach, cooked & chopped Swiss chard or broccoli rabe (rapini) may be added to the cheese before stuffing the shells. For a cheesier dish, use a few tablespoons of chopped, fresh basil or parsley in place of the spinach.

Notes

Extra shells may be frozen using either of 2 methods:

  1. Perhaps the easiest way to freeze them is to place the stuffed shells on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Place the tray in the freezer and, after at least 2 hours, remove the shells and place in a container suitable for storage in the freezer. I wouldn’t suggest freezer bags because the pasta shells get rigid when frozen and bags may not offer enough protection. When you wish to cook them, treat the frozen shells as you would fresh and place them in a baking dish filled partway with sauce. Cover with foil, pace on center rack, and bake for 1 hour in a pre-heated 350* oven. After 1 hour, remove foil and insert tip of knife into the cheese of one of the shells in the middle of the tray. After a few seconds, remove knife and feel tip. If it’s just warm, cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes more. If the knife tip is hot, continue baking, uncovered, until the cheese on top is to your liking. If the knife tip is cold, the cheese isn’t heated. Put foil back onto the tray, cook for another 15 minutes, and test again.
  2. Alternately, you can prepare the shells in a tray as normal but put them in the freezer instead of the oven. Later, place them, covered with foil, in a 350* pre-heated oven for 1 hour. Refer to the prior note for testing the shells for doneness.

*     *     *

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  1. Oh my word – these look amazing! I think we should start to resurrect some of our earlier posts before we had all the lovely followers we have now so that they can enjoy fabulous posts like this that they may have missed….and this is perfect for my tomato glut right now 🙂

    Like

    • These are an old favorite, Tanya. I make a big batch and freeze the shells on baking sheets. Once stored away, I can have shells for dinner whenever I like or if friends drop by unexpectedly. They make a great dinner on a cold day. 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s