There must be a special place in heaven for men who cook. My father made this dish the other day to my mother's and my delight.
It always amazes me that dad, who isn't a patient man to begin with, and what little patience he had he lost raising six kids, will still make the effort to gently stuff dozens of pasta shells. Not to say there wasn't any grumbling, but he knew the work was going to pay off, and it did.
Jumbo pasta shells, stuffed with a mixture of Italian sausage, spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, surrounded by tomatoes and baked until bubbly, do you think there were any leftovers? Hah! No way.
Sausage, Spinach, Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
Uses two 9x13 shallow baking dishes
1 (12-ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large egg
16-ounces ricotta cheese
10 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, chopped further (or 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid, tomatoes broken up (or your favorite tomato or pasta sauce)
Cook pasta shells:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt per quart of water). Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
Cook onions, then sausage, then add garlic:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up the sausage into smaller bits. Lower the heat to medium. Cook sausage until cooked through, and no pink remains, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Make ricotta spinach stuffing:
Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, chopped spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and sausage mixture.
Fill pasta shells with stuffing:
Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture.
Arrange stuffed shells on chopped canned tomatoes in baking dish:
Spread 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in the dishes. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.
At this point you can make ahead, to freeze (up to four months) or refrigerate before cooking. (If freezing, cover with foil, then wrap with plastic wrap.)
Heat oven to 375°F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling.
Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.
Recipe adapted from recipe on box of Barilla jumbo pasta shells, and a recipe appearing in the Sacramento Bee.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||21%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||36%|
|Total Carbohydrate 27g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 6mg||28%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|