Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Shells

On my last few trips to the grocery store, I haven’t been able to stop dreaming about Italian food. Fresh basil and tomatoes are the biggest draw, with their warm, homey smells and the promise of a good meal. When I think of the Italian foods I love to make and eat, though, meat is always the next ingredient that comes to mind. And why shouldn’t it be? Italians are as famous for their meats as they are for anything else – prosciutto, pancetta, guanciale, spicy sausages… the perfect ingredients for a carnivorous carnival!

But none of these wonderful foods would suit for Thursday’s Terra Treats – after all, I promised you no meat! So for today’s recipe, I decided to try a recipe for stuffed shells I’d recently seen on Real Simple’s website. No need for meat, so I turned away from the butcher case and wandered toward the cheese counter instead.

These stuffed shells are a snap to put together, and only call for a few basic ingredients. The chopped spinach adds a nice textural element to the cheese stuffing – and for some extra flavor, try adding a few chopped basil leaves to the mix! A few of these shells will have you feeling plenty full, but if you want some variety on your plate, pick up some extra spinach for a lovely side salad.

Yields approximately 5 servings
Above, photograph taken by Marcus Nilsson, hosted on Real Simple's website

On a side note, I’ve been struggling with my camera lately, so I can’t take any credit for today’s glamour picture (at left, taken by Marcus Nilsson for Real Simple). Just for kicks, though, I did post the picture I was able to eke out – it’s a little messier, but they still tasted great!

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Shells

Directions (adapted from Real Simple recipe):
20 jumbo pasta shells (most of a 12-oz box)
1 32-oz container part-skim ricotta
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 24-oz jar marinara sauce
½ cup grated mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F, with oven rack in the highest position just under the broiler. Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions; drain with a colander and run under cold water until pasta is cool and can be comfortably handled.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, spinach, salt, and pepper; gently use a large rubber spatula to mix well. Meanwhile, spread marinara sauce in the bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.
  3. Using a spoon, fill each shell with a generous portion of the ricotta-spinach mixture, and place each stuffed shell on top of the sauce. Top all shells with grated mozzarella; bake for 10-12 minutes, or until shells are heated all the way through.
  4. Increase heat to broil; with a watchful eye, let the shells broil until the cheese begins to brown, about 2 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove dish from the oven and serve hot.

*Note: If you don’t have a broilerproof baking pan, Le Creuset has some affordable options that work perfectly here - I just got their stoneware 14” baking dish, and am loving all of the ways I’ve found to use it!


  1. Oh these look DELICIOUS!

    ... and extra scrumptious, too! :-)

  2. Looks like they came out really well!