By Jodee Weiland
Italian Stuffed Shells Marinara with Ricotta and Spinach was one of my favorite dishes when I was younger. As a child growing up in an Italian family, I thought there was something magical about the large shells stuffed, as if they were shells from the sea filled with the creamy taste of ricotta just to please me.
As a young wife and mother, I found that my own children enjoyed them just as much as I did because they were indeed a novelty compared to ravioli or lasagna. Unfortunately, many people avoid making stuffed shells because they think they are difficult, but in reality, this recipe is easy to make once you get used to it.
When I first watched my own mother make this recipe, she would stuff the shells with a ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella mixture like the one in this recipe, but this recipe has something extra. I have added spinach because I love it. There is nothing unique about that these days, but that is how I make my stuffed shells nonetheless. I love spinach, so years ago I decided to add it to the mix. These days all kinds of things may be added. When I cook, I don’t necessarily look for unique ways of doing things because sometimes the old ways are the best ways with maybe just a little change here or there. It’s really just a matter of preference, so you decide what you want to add.
1/2 (12 ounce box) jumbo shells (about 20 to 24 shells)
1/2 (32 ounce container) light ricotta
1 (8 ounce) package part skim shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Italian Marinara Sauce
Prepare the marinara sauce. For this recipe, I added some freshly blended (in my food processor) Roma tomatoes to my marinara sauce. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, chopped spinach, parsley, half of the shredded mozzarella, half of the Parmesan Reggiano, and egg. Boil the jumbo shells per the directions on the box and drain.
Put a layer of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish, which should be coated with extra virgin olive oil. When the shells are drained and cooled, spoon the ricotta mixture into each shell and place them side by side with the open side up in the baking dish. Once done with this, spoon the marinara sauce over the shells in the baking dish. Then spread the other half of the mozzarella cheese over the top, and last of all, spread the other half of the Parmesan Reggiano over that. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400 degrees in the oven for thirty minutes. Finally, remove the foil and bake for two minutes longer to be sure the cheese melted and blended.
Serve this delicious meal of Italian Stuffed Shells Marinara with Ricotta and Spinach with the extra sauce and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese to taste. You may add a crusty loaf of bread and a salad as well to round out your meal. This meal pairs well with either a Chianti or Pinot Noir. This meal is delicious and any leftovers can be either frozen or reheated and used the next day, whichever you prefer. You have all the flavor of a great Italian meal here, and it really is a lot easier than making lasagna, but has the same flavors. So give it a try, and enjoy!