I love stuffed shells. Neat little packages of pasta stuffed with whatever ingredients you like or might have on hand.
I’ve made stuffed shells many different ways – with Italian Sausage, with Artichokes, with Sundried Tomatoes – but these Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells are my favorite.
I really load them up with spinach so they are heavy on vegetables which are good for you and pretty light on cheese.
All of the great flavors of lasagna with none of the guilt.
Plus, they’re cute.
Here’s what you need:
Jumbo Shells Pasta, Frozen Spinach, Onion, Egg, Parmesan Cheese, Mushrooms, Marinara Sauce, Ricotta Cheese, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Chop up a medium onion into small pieces.
Pour about 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil into a skillet and saute the onions over medium high heat until tender and golden but not overly browned.
This will take about 5 minutes. When the onions are nice and tender and shiny (cookbooks use the term “translucent”), remove them from the pan into a big mixing bowl.
Add 1 (15 ounce) container of Ricotta Cheese and 1 egg to the bowl. I’m using part skim ricotta cheese to try to make these shells a little healthier. Even the full fat ricotta is very light compared to other kinds of cheese so either variety will be fine.
Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese (mine is a Parmesan/Romano blend), salt and pepper to the bowl.
For this recipe I like to used frozen chopped spinach. It’s easy and economical. For this same amount of spinach, you would have to cook at least 6 bags of fresh spinach. I have 2 (10 ounce) boxes of spinach. Remove the block of spinach from the box and put it in a bowl, covered in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes.
Once it has thawed, you can either wait for it to cool or if you’re impatient like me, run it under a little cool water so it doesn’t burn your fingers off.
Grab a handful of the spinach and squeeze all the liquid out. Really squeeze, squeeze and squeeze again. Try to get the spinach as dry as possible.
Add the spinach to the bowl of filling and continue until you’ve thawed, cooked and squeezed both boxes of spinach.
Wash, brush off, rinse, do whatever you do to clean mushrooms and then slice them up. I’m using one 8 ounce package of fresh mushrooms.
Using the same pan that you used for the onions, add another Tablespoon of oil and crank the heat up to high. Add the mushrooms and saute them until they are soft and have golden brown bits on the edges.
I’m cooking the mushrooms on higher heat because I want them to be very dry. Mushrooms give off a lot of liquid as they cook and I don’t want them to make my filling watery. Besides, the browned bits taste really good.
Add the mushrooms to the mixing bowl with ricotta and spinach filling.
To cook the pasta shells, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a good handful of salt and drop in the shells.
*You do not need to cook the entire box of shells. This recipe uses about 21 shells and I like to cook a few extra incase one or two break. You can count them out, or about 3/4 of the box will do the trick.
Cook the pasta only until it is tender – about 6 minutes. The pasta shells will continue to cook in the oven so we actually want them a little under-cooked.
Grab a jar of your favorite Marinara Sauce and pour about 1/3 of the jar into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread the sauce out to cover the entire bottom of the dish.
I’m a big fan of Newman’s Own Cabernet Marinara sauce. It is the closest I’ve found in flavor to homemade sauce and is all natural so it doesn’t have a bunch of junk you don’t need in your sauce. (and no, I’m not getting paid by anyone at Newman’s to say nice things about their sauce. I just like it. And I like Paul Newman. And I think you should go watch Nobody’s Fool or The Sting.)
Now for the fun part. Drain the pasta shells and give them a minute to cool. Stir all of the filling ingredients together. Grab a shell and stuff it with the filling mixture.
Really pack the filling into the shells to fill them up.
Place the shells in the baking dish in nice little rows.
Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the top of the shells.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese on top of the sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
While they baked, I made a quick salad. Toss in whatever you have in the fridge — olives, artichoke hearts, celery, lettuce (of course), dressing and toss it all together.
Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells and Tossed Salad. You can feel good about eating this for dinner.
Psst….it’s vegetarian too.
Here’s the recipe: