Now that the holidays are finally over, I crave piping hot comfort foods that are relatively easy to prepare, or at least ones that I can prepare in advance and heat when I’m ready to go. Enter stuffed shells. Some time in mid December I got a hankerin’ for creamy ricotta, marinara with just a little bite to it, and oversized shells housing the whole affair. This craving stuck with me until this week when I finally had everything in place.
The evening before, I had made blue cheese burgers, so I had some extra ground beef (about a half a pound) to play with, plus some spinach from the meal before that. I decided to ramp up the usual ricotta filling I so love with meat ‘n’ greens, giving it total stick-to-yr-ribs status.
The shells came together pretty quickly, and as I suggested, they keep perfectly in the fridge over night or for a day or two (I wouldn’t go any more than 2 days, but it’s not like you really could with those beauties staring you down.) They also store quite nicely in the freezer. You can freeze shells on a sheet tra
Stuffed Shells (a sort of makeshift IQF method) and then put them in plastic freezer containers, or you can freeze the stuffed shells with sauce and all and simply thaw over night and pop them in the oven when you’re ready to eat!
1/2 package (about 18 shells) large shells
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 big ol’ hands full of spinach
1 c. ricotta
1/2 c. parmesan, grated (plus more for topping)
1/4 c. mozzarella, shredded (plus more for topping)
salt and pepper, to taste
Marinara Sauce (use your favorite recipe or a good quality store-bought sauce)
Assemble all ingredients and equipment. Cook shells according to package directions, and set aside. Be sure to toss them in a little olive oil while you work on the other ingredients, so they don’t stick together in the strainer.
In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil on medium high. Add onions and garlic, and cook until transluscent. Add ground beef, and continue to cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add spinach, and turn off the heat. Toss the spinach with the onions, garlic, and beef, and allow the residual heat to wilt the spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.In a mixing bowl, combine cheeses and the egg. Stir to combine. Stir in the spinach mixture. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9×13″ casserole dish, spread a layer of marinara sauce. Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture and place on the layer of sauce. Once all the shells are stuffed, cover with a few more spoonfuls of sauce and some cheese. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
I enjoyed the leftovers with my beloved Tessypoo for lunch the next day!