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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stuffed Shells

Until I was about 25, I had never ever had stuffed shells. Or stuffed pasta of any kind really. No shells, no manicotti, I probably had some Chef Boyardee ravioli at some point but that doesnt really count. We didnt eat a lot of Italian food as kids but I love it now. Pretty much any kind of pasta is good in my book.

When I first tried stuffed shells, I had a plain vanilla version, pasta shell stuffed with basic ricotta cheese. Boring, nothing inspiring, nothing to get excited about.

About a year ago I decided to try making stuffed shells again myself. But I figured I should add something more interesting than just ricotta cheese. Mozzerella, Italian sausage, onions, wine, spinach... the possibilities are endless. And any of these will make your stuffed shells a lot more interesting.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Italian Sausage

1/2 pound Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 T fresh basil, finely chopped
1 T fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
Approximately 1 cup marinara sauce
Approximately 16 large pasta shells

Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add salt and pasta. Cook until just al dente. Do not overcook since the shells will continue cooking in the oven. Drain shells and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium high heat. When browned, add garlic, onions, and wine. Cook about 3 minutes until wine condenses and reduce heat to low. Add spinach, cook until softened, stirring to incorporate. Add ricotta cheese and stir until melted and well combined. Add herbs and crushed red pepper flakes and stir into mixture. Turn off heat.
In a baking dish, spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of the dish. Spoon a heaping tablespoon or so of filling into each shell until filled. Lay the shells, open side up, in the baking dish. Position them close together to keep shells from rolling. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzerella cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

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