Let 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.
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Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe
total time: about 90 minutes. yield: about 24 shells.
- 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
- 1 box jumbo pasta shells, cooked following package directions, reserved in cold water.
- 1 cup grated mozzarella, or more to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350*. Butter one9 x 13″ baking dish/pan.
- 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.
- Add about 2/3 of the sauce to the baking dish with a little water.
- One by one, fill each shell with 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of the filling mixture and place in the baking dish.
- When the tray is filled, drizzle remaining sauce over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with mozzarella and cover with aluminum foil.
- Place on oven’s center rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 minutes more.
- 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.
Extra shells may be frozen using either of 2 methods:
- 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.
- 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.
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