Introduction: Spinach and Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

About: Let's skip the pretentious titles. At present, I am a paper pusher. In the remainder of my life, I am a mother of two handsome grown men, a wife to a very patient man, a nana of two precious grandchildren, c…

There is no need to be intimidated by such a recipe. You can do it!

When I served this dish to my significant other, I was expecting the same
routine. He would salt the heck out of it, eat it and life would go on. What
I didn't expect was all the raving. From another room, I could hear his fork
clanging against the plate over and over. The compliments were bountiful,
and I was beaming with pride. Stuffed shells may now be marked off the
bucket list. Success!

Step 1: The Wonderful Recipe...

This recipe calls for two cups of Multi-Purpose Marinara, brought to you by another Instructable!

Though you may use canned marinara, I think it is much more fun to make your own.
Besides, you can actually control the ingredients.

2 cups Multi-Purpose Marinara
Cooking spray
2 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach - thawed, drained and squeezed dry
1 large egg yolk
1 clove of garlic, minced or squeezed through a garlic press

24 jumbo pasta shells - jumbo. Should be cooked prior to assembling this dish.
Time it just right so your seashells are not lying around getting clammy. You may
wish to make the cream sauce, then refrigerate it while the noodles are cooking.

Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients...

For a nice flow in the kitchen, I always like to gather
all of the ingredients for a recipe ahead of time. Measuring
and such can all be completed and out of the way, leaving
little to no room for errors such as missed ingredients.

Step 3: Prepare the Spinach...

If you insist on holding onto that childhood hatred of spinach
(hey, some of us never quite get over it...) you may substitute
another vegetable, or even meat.

Honestly, the flavor of the spinach is not overwhelming, and
it is good for you.

Place the spinach into a colander and squeeze as much juice
from it as you can without decimating it. Set aside.

NOTE: You may wish to chop the spinach a little finer in order
to fit it through the piping hole of a stuffing press / jerky gun.

NOTE: The fibers of the spinach can be confused with cat hair.
If you find your guests whispering and pushing their food to the
side of their plate, they might just think you need to run the Hoover
a little more often. Assure them otherwise and offer more wine.

Step 4: Create the Filling, Combine With Spinach...

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the following:

2 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, minced

Stir just enough to thoroughly mix the ingredients, but
certainly don't beat it.

Add the dried, squeezed spinach and incorporate well.

Step 5: Gadget Alert! Load Your Gun (not a Necessary Item, But Fun...)

Stuffing shells, filling canolli, piping cream centers into cupcakes, stuffing deviled eggs.
There are so many uses for this nifty little gun. Though it is sold as a beef jerky kit, I happened
upon this thing at a yard sale. Beef jerky was the last thing on my mind. It is like a giant,
double-barreled stuffer compared to my previous dinky little mushroom stuffer.

Just type 'beef jerky kit' into any search engine, and you'll find a wealth of sources.

Step 6: Cook the Shells in Boiling Water...

Surely we can all manage a pot of boiling water without a picture, but
you never know.

Gently add 24 shells to the boiling water. Better yet, dump in the entire
box, because inevitably, some of them will break. Add a dash of salt to
the water if you wish, but don't forget, that will change the nutritional information
in step 12.

Swirl the shells around on occasion so they don't clump together.
Cook as directed according to package instructions.

Step 7: Drain the Shells, Cool Just Enough to Handle...

You'll want to keep your shells covered with a moist cloth or paper towel to keep them
from drying out. If you are still in the process of making the other ingredients, rinse the
shells with hot water once in a while to keep them from sticking together.

Step 8: Prepare the Pan, Stuff the Shells...

Mist a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray.
Spread about 1/2 cup of the Marinara sauce in the bottom.
No need for perfection.

Now that the shells have cooled enough to handle, you have
to decide if it is easier to lay them in the pan and then fill them, or
hold them in your hand, stuff, and then arrange them into the
casserole dish. My advice, if using a spoon, would be to hold them
in your hand.

If you are using a stuffing gun as shown in step five, either way is fine.

Evenly distribute the cheese sauce among the shells. They do not need
to be overflowing with cheese. Line them up neatly, and spread the remaining
sauce on top. Keep in mind that any exposed shell will become dry and / or rubbery
in the oven, so try to spread it as best as you can over the tops of them.

Step 9: Spread Sauce on Top, a Bit of Cheese, a Bit of Pepper...

After sauce has been spread over the shells, sprinkle a bit more
Parmesan. Add the finishing touches by sprinkling freshly ground
pepper over the top.

Step 10: Pop It Into the Oven for 30 Minutes at 350 Degrees...

It is not necessary to cover the dish, as it will only be in the
oven for about thirty minutes. You might want to use this
time to clean up the mess you just made in the kitchen.

Step 11: Enjoy!

If you have extra marinara sauce, spread a little hot pool of sauce
on the serving dishes, then place the shells upon the sauce. It looks
so nice, such a pretty presentation!

Please feel free to amend this recipe as you see fit.

This recipe is definitely a keeper, at least in my kitchen, and I
am anxious to make it again soon. Next time, I will stuff mushrooms
into the bottoms of the shells, switch to, or add a bit of mozzarella
and such.

Meat eaters might consider cooking up a batch of hamburger and / or
Italian sausage, sprinkling a bit in the bottom of the shells before adding
the Ricotta mixture. It is such a forgiving recipe.

The little bread sticks shown, I can't say enough about. They come in
little individual packages, which is great if your household has a habit
of wasting the rest of a fresh loaf of bread.

Step 12: Nutritional Information...

Surprisingly, even with the addition of cheeses, this dish
is not too bad with regard to nutritional aspects, depending
on what you are watching in your diet.

Thanks to Cooking Light for always offering this information!

Serving size is an assumed 4 shells with 1/3 cup sauce

CALORIES: 329 (27% from fat)

FAT: 9.8 grams
Saturated fat: 4.8
Mono: 3 grams
Poly: 1 gram

PROTEIN: 19.6 grams
FIBER: 4.2 grams
CHOLESTEROL: 67 milligrams
IRON: 2.8 milligrams
SODIUM: 562 milligrams
CALCIUM: 377 milligrams

Bon appetit!