Since cooler weather is finally here again, it’s time to celebrate by turning on those ovens and making some good, soul-satisfying comfort food. Something rich, gooey and oozing with cheese is definitely in order. If you’re not in the mood for macaroni and cheese, try some delicious stuffed shells instead.
Transport yourself to Italy without ever leaving the comfort of your kitchen. Fill large pasta shells with a cheesy spinach mixture and then bathe them in a homemade marinara sauce. Top with even more cheese for a meal the entire family will love.
To make filling the shells easier, try putting the filling into a pastry bag or a plastic zipper bag with a hole cut in one corner.
As with any baked pasta dish, be sure to under-cook the pasta slightly since it will finish cooking in the oven. Also be sure to add plenty of salt to the pasta water or the overall dish might be a bit bland.
Find several varieties of Parmesan and a good choice of other specialty cheeses at Reasor’s.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 (8 oz.) tomato sauce
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 (15 oz.) tub whole milk ricotta
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, divided
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
- Pinch of finely grated nutmeg
- 1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 box large pasta shells
Make the sauce:
In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Stir in tomato sauce and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes, oregano, marjoram and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened.
Make the filling:
In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, ½ cup of Parmesan, eggs, lemon zest, parsley and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
Make sure all of the excess liquid has been squeezed out of the spinach and then add it to the ricotta mixture.
Cook the pasta:
In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the shells for 5-6 minutes. Drain well.
Assemble and bake the shells:
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spoon some of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
Fill the pasta shells with the spinach mixture and place in baking dish. Spoon remaining sauce over the top.
Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 15 more minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
Makes 4-6 servings