sorry the picture above is not all that pretty. but you know what the one downside with food blogging is? having to wait to eat dinner because you’re trying to style your food just right so that you can take a pretty picture to post on your blog. poor chris has to wait all the time – just one more second and we can eat, i promise! a million seconds later and it’s finally time to eat.
well sometimes, i’m just so hungry that i’m not able to take all the time i would like to make the plate of food pretty. this happened when i made these spinach and ricotta stuffed shells for dinner. it was already past our dinner time and when i’m hungry, i get just a little cranky. so i just plopped a few of the shells on a plate, snapped a couple pictures and we dug in.
so please forgive me for the less than beautiful pictures, but please don’t let that keep you from trying out this recipe – because it’s amazeballs. yes, that’s totally a word (anyone else watch giuliana and bill?).
anyway, i stuffed the shells with a flavorful mixture of spinach, ricotta cheese, garlic, onions and herbs and then topped it all with some crockpot bolognese sauce and melty mozzarella cheese. if you don’t happen to have bolognese sauce on hand (but who really does? we only had some since i was on a crockpot/slow cooker kick) just use a large can of diced tomatoes or a large jar of your favorite pasta sauce. the original stuffed shells recipe i used had sausage in the stuffing mixture, but i took it out since the bolognese sauce already had meat in it. but if you plan on using just diced tomatoes or pasta sauce, i would definitely suggest adding the sausage back in.
start by boiling the shells.
once they’re done, rinse and drain the shells well and set them aside to cool.
then make the filling mixture. saute some onions and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. once the onions are translucent, turn the heat off and allow the onions and garlic to cool.
in a large bowl combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, and basil.
then add the onions and garlic.
now the filling mixture is ready to be stuffed into the shells.
get ready, this is going to make a lot of shells, so get 2 pans ready one 9 x 13ish and 1 8/8ish pan. spread a little bit of the sauce on the bottom of each pan.
then start stuffing the shells and line them up in the pan. big pan done…
and the little one.
now spread some bolognese sauce over the shells.
cover each pan with foil.
then bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. take the foil off and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the sauce,
and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
i’ll warn you, it’s going to smell really really good and you’re going to want to dive right in. once you try it, hopefully you won’t blame me for not wanting to wait and take pictures and you too will want to just gobble these spinach and ricotta stuffed shells up.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats
- 1 12-oz. package jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
- 6-7 oz. fresh spinach, chopped OR 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 3 1/2 cups crockpot bolognese sauce OR 1 large jar of pasta sauce OR 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes w/ herbs, including the liquid
- 1 lb. italian sausage, casing remove [optional - suggest including if not using bolognese sauce]
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. [if using sausage, cook the sausage along with the onions and garlic until browned]
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, ricotta, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir together to combine.
- Add the onion and garlic mixture to the bowl and stir until evenly mixed.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Spread a thin layer of the sauce or tomatoes in the baking dishes (either three 8×8″ pans, or one 9×13″ and one 8×8″).
- Stuff each shell with some of the spinach and cheese mixture, and arrange in the baking dishes, open side up.
- Spread the remaining sauce or tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.
- Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
- Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.
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