The panicked look on my face probably startled my husband into thinking something dire had taken place.
“Where’s the ricotta???”
Truthfully, for the first few seconds after I realized the stuffed shells recipe I was following seemed to have omitted the ricotta…well, I did have a minor momentary freakout. It shouldn’t have been a real showstopper, but when I’m racing against the sun to prepare and photograph a meal before putting it on the dinner table, the last thing I want to find out is that the recipe I’m following has flaws. Sometimes when you find one error in a recipe, others aren’t far behind.
I scanned over the recipe again and again, but there was no mention of ricotta cheese at all. Impossible! Stuffed shells are made with ricotta, or at least the kind I like to eat do. I wondered if I had mistakenly chosen a sausage-and-spinach-only version, but the photo on the side of the box where I found the recipe depicted shells just brimming with spinach-flecked ricotta. It was definitely supposed to be in there.
Fortunately, this recipe error seemed to be an isolated incident. Hoping I wouldn’t wind up with way too much filling I went ahead and added in a pound of ricotta anyway. I just couldn’t bear to make stuffed shells without it. They turned out just right – that classic, homey comfort dish I’ve known and loved for years, made a little healthier with a bag of baby spinach mixed in. And ricotta. Problem averted.
Sausage & Spinach Stuffed Shells
Adapted from the Stuffed Jumbo Shells recipe on the back of the Barilla Jumbo Shells package.
Prep time: 35 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 1 hr 5 min
- 12-ounce package jumbo shell pasta
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces baby spinach, chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 egg
- 15-ounce package part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cook jumbo shells according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Meanwhile, cook Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat 7-10 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain grease.
- Add oil, spinach, onion, garlic, reserved pasta water; continue cooking 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- Add seasonings and blend well. Let mixture cool.
- Combine egg, ricotta and Parmigiano cheese in a large bowl. Mix in sausage mixture.
- Pour 1 cup of the marinara sauce into a 13×9 inch baking dish.
- Fill jumbo shells with meat and cheese mixture; place in dish. Pour remaining sauce over shells; sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top, cover with foil. (If you have more filled shells than will fit in your baking dish, you can always freeze the extra).
- Bake for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
See the Recipe Index for all the recipes on Cooking On the Side.