Stuffed spinach and ricotta cheese shells

I think the first dish I ever made for Pathik in college was stuffed spinach and ricotta cheese shells, which has evolved itself into becoming my signature dish which all my close friends from college have been served. It was one of my first forays into what I perceived as complicated cooking at the time, but there is nothing complicated about this recipe. It is quite easy and can be made in approximately 40 minutes to an hour. That is a realistic estimate- it really should not take you any longer. I find that the times listed on recipes are usually inaccurate, as they always take longer to make than what is listed. However, I do waste a lot of time reading and re-reading the fine print in a recipe to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Here is a very straightforward (no fine-print) version of my own creation instead of from Pinterest or my mother -in- law:

For 4 people

approximately 18 shells
(1) 8 oz tub Ricotta cheese
approximately 1 cup chopped spinach (can be frozen or fresh, mine is usually frozen)
approximatley 1/2 cup chopped white onion
approximately 1 tbs minced garlic (this can be adjusted per your family’s taste)
fresh or frozen basil to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
chopped parsley to taste, fresh or frozen
pasta sauce
grated parmesan, fresh or refridgerated

1. Set water to boil in a large pot, with a few drops of oil and some salt added. Add the shells when the water has come to a boil. You may have to stir every once in a while to make sure the shells don’t stick. Once the shells are thoroughly cooked, turn off the water. Drain the water only when you are ready to start stuffing the shells.

2. Pour about half a jar of pasta sauce into a saucepan and cover to warm.

3. In a large saucepan, sautee the onion, garlic, red pepper, basil and parsley in a 3/4 tsp of olive oil.

4. Once the basic veggies have started to cook, add the spinach.

5. A few minutes later when all spinach is done being cooked, add ricotta cheese.

6. Add extra seasoning (basil, parsley, red pepper) to your taste.

7. Take a large spoon and place ricotta cheese mixture into shells to your desired stuffing- it may help to section off the mixture into however many shells you have to make sure you have enough and adjust portions accordingly.

8. As you stuff each shell, place in a large glass baking dish with a thin layer of pasta sauce spread on the bottom. After you are done filling up the baking dish, spoon pasta sauce onto each shell and spread to cover.

9. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top to your desire

10. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until pasta sauce starts to slightly boil and parmesan cheese melts. All the ingredients are hot anyway so this should take no more than maximum ten minutes. Otherwise the sauce will start to burn and stick to the side of the baking dish.

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