Are ya ready? This recipe is a family favorite (even with spinach!). It happens to be vegetarian but I often serve them along side meatballs (nothing fancy- frozen meatballs in a pot of jarred sauce). It makes about three dozen shells (10-12 servings) and I often freeze half or pass it on to friends since it is easily assembles and heated.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 box jumbo pasta shells
4 cups (2lbs) Ricotta cheese (I use part skim)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3-4 cups marinara sauce (a 28 oz. jar does the trick)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While I wait for the water to boil I set up a sort of assembly line. I hadn’t thought to photograph that.. oops, blogging fail. Basically I have the water boiling on the stove. Directly next to the stove I lay out parchment paper to lay the cooked shells on. Next to that I have my bowl (we’ll fill that in a minute) of ricotta mixture and then another parchment for the filled shells. Then I have several freezer bags (if I intend to freeze a batch) or my greased pans with marinara and Parmesan ready nearby.
Cook shells in batches of 5-8 (depending on size of your pot) according to the timing on the box. Slightly under-cooked shells are okay and actually easier to fill because they keep their shape and don’t tear as easily. An overcooked shell will work fine but will require more care when removing from the water and filling. Also, I recommend a splash of olive oil in the water to keep the shells from sticking together.
Defrost the frozen spinach and drain well. For good measure I also use a large chef’s knife to chop the spinach again. I know, I know… The package says its already chopped. But I’ve found that chopping more makes the spinach less stringy and and more “bite size”. This is particularly helpful for the kids, as we want them to virtually forget about the spinach anyway, right?!
For the fill mixture: Beat 3 eggs. Add ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and season with parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in spinach.
As the batches of shells are ready, pull them from the water with a slotted spoon. Lay them on parchment paper and allow to cool. Carefully spoon filling into each shell so as not to tear the shells. Set aside to cool on parchment.
pour thin layer of sauce in pan and arrange shells upright and tightly in baking dish. Spoon Marinara sauce over each shell and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. If you’re freezing some or all of your shells be sure to let them cool completely ad then place in freezer bags with as little air as possible and being careful to keep them facing upright until frozen. Once you’re ready to use the frozen shells, remove from freezer and assemble shells in baking dish as instructed above. Allow to “thaw” on refrigerator overnight to 24 hours before baking.
Enjoy, as always, with a glass champagne!