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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells: A Comforting Italian Classic

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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells are a beloved Italian-American dish known for their creamy ricotta filling and savory spinach, all nestled inside tender pasta shells and baked to perfection with marinara sauce. This recipe combines simplicity with rich flavors, making it a comforting and satisfying meal for any occasion. In this article, we’ll explore the appeal of Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells, discuss essential ingredients and cooking techniques, and provide a step-by-step recipe to help you create this delicious dish at home.

Why Choose Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells?

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells are cherished for their combination of smooth ricotta cheese, nutritious spinach, and the delightful texture of pasta shells. This dish offers a comforting balance of flavors and textures, making it a popular choice for family dinners and gatherings. The assembly is straightforward, and the final baked dish is both visually appealing and delicious, making it a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients for Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

To prepare Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells, you’ll need:

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound (450 g) jumbo pasta shells
  • 15 oz (425 g) ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz (300 g) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil or parsley, chopped, for garnish

For the Assembly:

  • 3 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation Steps

1. Cook the Pasta Shells:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

2. Prepare the Filling:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, thawed and squeezed dry spinach, shredded mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, egg, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.

3. Assemble the Stuffed Shells:

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce evenly on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  • Using a spoon, carefully fill each cooked pasta shell with the spinach and ricotta mixture, placing them in a single layer in the baking dish.

4. Bake the Stuffed Shells:

  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells, covering them evenly. Sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

5. Serve:

  • Remove the foil from the baking dish and garnish the Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with chopped fresh basil or parsley for a pop of color and freshness.
  • Serve hot, portioning out the stuffed shells onto plates or into bowls.

Tips for Cooking Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • Handling Pasta Shells: Cook the pasta shells just until al dente to prevent them from becoming too soft during baking.
  • Squeezing Spinach: Thoroughly squeeze the thawed spinach to remove excess moisture, ensuring the filling stays creamy and not watery.
  • Cheese Variations: Experiment with different cheeses like fontina or provolone for a unique flavor profile.
  • Make-Ahead: Prepare the stuffed shells up to a day in advance, cover with foil, and refrigerate. Bake as directed when ready to serve.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells as a main dish accompanied by a side salad and garlic bread for a complete meal.
  • Pair with a glass of red wine such as Chianti or Sangiovese to complement the rich flavors of the dish.

Conclusion

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells offer a comforting blend of creamy ricotta cheese, nutritious spinach, and tender pasta shells, all bathed in marinara sauce and baked to perfection. By following this recipe and mastering the assembly and baking techniques, you can create a hearty and satisfying Italian-inspired dish at home. Enjoy the delicious flavors and textures of Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells, savoring each bite as a testament to the comforting joys of homemade Italian cuisine. Treat yourself and your loved ones to this classic dish for a memorable dining experience filled with warmth and flavor.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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