Shell Pasta Stuffed with Ricotta, Spinach and Mozzarella

This is a great weeknight meal that can be doubled and freeze the second pan for next week’s dinner. Italian sausage is being used, but substitute hamburger, if you prefer. If you are using the Easy Marinara Sauce, make sure you have the ingredients it calls and allow enough time to make it. Serve with a salad to round out the meal. Serves 4 -6.

Ingredients

Pasta
16 jumbo shells – add more because some will break from a 12 oz. box of shell pasta
Filling
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 large garlic cloves minced, more if desired
6 cups of fresh spinach washed and chopped
1- 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage (mild, sweet or spicy) or hamburger
2 cups fresh button mushrooms cleaned and quartered
2 large garlic cloves crushed through a garlic press
5 cups of Easy Marinara Sauce or your favorite marinara sauce
Garnish (optional)
Fresh grated parmesan cheese or ricotta salata
A chiffonade of fresh basil

Technique

Make the Easy Marinara Sauce and simmer until ready use.

In a medium skillet add olive oil and sauté garlic over medium heat for about a minute. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Set aside and allow to cool.

Remove casings from sausage if they are encased and roll into golf ball sized balls, about 12. In a large skillet, add olive oil and brown the sausage some will fall apart and that is fine. Add mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the sausage and mushroom mixture to the marinara sauce. Simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Boil the shells according to package instructions and drain when done. While shells are cooking, make the filling. In a medium bowl, stir together the spinach mixture, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. In an 8 x 12 inch rectangular deep casserole dish evenly spread a small amount of sauce over the bottom to prevent shells from sticking. Once shells have cooled enough to handle, fill with spinach and cheese mixture and place in the casserole dish. Some spinach mixture might remain depending on how full the shells are filled. Pour the marinara sauce and sausage over the shells and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees uncovered for about 30 – 45 minutes. Allow the dish to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Allowing the dish to rest will prevent a “soupy like” consistency. Garnish with parmesan cheese or ricotta salata and basil and enjoy!

Suggested Beverage

Try Farnese Sangiovese (Italy), Gabbiano Chianti (Italy), Sansilverstro Cantine Patres Barolo (Italy) or Parducci Family Farmed Pinot Noir (California).

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