In the winter months I crave a hearty meal such as a decadent cheesy pasta! Thankfully this recipe has spinach in it which makes me feel like I am not being so bad (plus tomato sauce has lots of vitamins, right?). I have served this meal as a first course when entertaining guests and as a hearty meal after a fun filled day of skiing - just add a salad or a piece of garlic bread and you are good to go! This recipe freezes beautifully so make a big batch so that you will always have stuffed pasta shells on hand.
I have included a bechamel sauce for the topping but you can omit that if you are short on time. This recipe yields approximately 45 stuffed shells and will fill 2 Burger Master trays with enough left over for 2 servings.
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz fresh baby spinach
28 oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
340g Jumbo Pasta Shells (cooked slightly firmer than al dente)
Bechamel Sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1.5 cups milk, more if needed to thin out the sauce
1 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar pasta sauce (I used a Tomato Basil sauce)
Cook the pasta shells according to package directions making sure to remove them from heat when the shells are slightly firmer than al dente (probably 2 minutes less then the package directions). You want the shells to be cooked all the way through but not overcooked because they still will cook in the sauce after they are stuffed.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Heat the Olive Oil in a medium sized pan on medium heat, add the onion and garlic and sautee until softened (approximately 2 minutes)
Add the spinach to the pan and cover with a lid. Cook until spinach is just wilted (approximately 4 minutes). Remove spinach from pan to cool. Once cooled chop spinach into smaller pieces.
In a medium sized bowl mix together the ricotta, egg, parmesan, basil, parsley, cooled spinach, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare a 9"X13" casserole dish by covering the bottom with a thin layer of pasta sauce.
Using a tablespoon scoop some of the ricotta filling into the pasta shell, and place in the casserole dish seam side down. Repeat with the remaining shells and filling. Once filled pour the remaining pasta sauce on top.
Prepare the bechamel sauce by heating the butter over medium heat in the same pan used for the spinach. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and whisk for 2 minutes or until slightly browned. Add the milk, parsley and basil and whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated and the sauce has thickened (approximately 5 minutes). If the sauce is too thick add some more milk to thin it out.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the stuffed shells and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (optional).
Bake for 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbly.
If you are freezing the shells using the Burger Master you can place 2 shells per hex, seam side down, cover with sauce and top with bechamel sauce (if using).
To bake from frozen, remove as many frozen pieces as needed and place in an oven safe dish, cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 30-40 minutes or until heated all the way through.