It’s been entirely too long since I’ve made stuffed shells. They are a bit labor-intensive, especially if you make your own marinara or Bolognese sauce, but I knew that Lexi would help stuff them with me. It was the first time in several weeks that I finally found some time to tinker around in the kitchen, doing what I love to do: making a great meal from scratch while watching football, especially since the temps outside had nosedived. This is truly comfort food on a cold and windy fall night.
I couldn’t decide whether to go meatless with homemade marinara, or make a hearty Bolognese sauce, which is the direction I decided to take after getting input from Lexi and Brad. Great call on their part! I used a combination of ground sirloin and sweet Italian sausage in the sauce, and you can find a similar recipe for the sauce I make for my “free-form lasagna” (click here for the recipe.)
These are wonderful to make for a crowd and they reheat really well. The following recipe uses an entire box of shells (approximately 40 of them), so you may want to cut the recipe in half, depending on how many will be eating.
Ingredients (Makes 40 shells)
- 12 cups marinara or Bolognese sauce
- 1 box (12 oz.) umbo pasta shells
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 bag (6 oz.) fresh baby spinach
- 32 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
- 2 cups part skim mozzarella, shredded
- ¾ cup plus 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (I add a few drops of vegetable oil to the water so the pasta doesn’t stick together.) Cook the shells according to the prebake directions on the box. Drain and let cool. Spray a couple of large casserole dishes with nonstick spray.
Rinse the spinach in a colander with cold water, but do not dry it. Put the spinach in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Toss until wilted (this always amazes me how your skillet full of spinach reduces to hardly anything in no time!)
Drain thoroughly, making sure you remove any excess moisture (I use paper towels for this step) and chop.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, spinach and the eggs until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff each shell with about 1 heaping tablespoon of spinach and cheese mixture.
Place the shells in the casserole dishes.
Ladle the sauce over the shells.
Cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and top each casserole with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, another 5 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with a tossed salad, garlic bread and a nice hearty red wine.
Eat, drink and be merry!
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