Stuffed pasta is a luxury that I hardly ever get myself into.
And now that I think about it, this is the first time I've ever made stuffed pasta! I made this at the beginning of April on a languid spring-like Thursday evening when I was feeling adventurous enough to actually try piping the filling in the shells rather than spooning it in. A word of advice: don't try piping the filling unless you are sure your sausage and spinach mixture is chopped finally enough. Mine wasn't and I ended up just being exasperated with even trying so I resorted back to a good ol' spoon.
This was also the day I unintentionally made a volcano of filling (see below), and tried Snapchatting my whole experience which I realized I am not good at because I get too much into making the food to remember to Snapchat the behind-the-scenes moments. But, it was fun and methodical all the same.
And, I brought back a gif! I haven't made one in ages and was inspired by Betty's stop motion videos which I have also made here but it's been far too long. So this gif is a mini step back into a stop motion video.
For these stuffed shells, there are four main steps—make the filling, boil the pasta and let it dry and stuff the shells. Then, place them on a baking pan lined with marinara sauce, top with cheese and bake. For the first 30 minutes, cover the shells with foil and then uncover them for the last 5-10 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
How much does 4 shells translate to in lasagna terms?
Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage
Slightly adapted from Tracy's Sausage & Kale Stuffed Shells
Yields: 32 shells (Enough for a 13"x9" pan + an 8"x8" pan)
12 oz. box jumbo pasta shells
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Italian sausages, removed from their casing
1 heavy pinch red pepper flakes
½ medium yellow onion, diced
3 cups fresh spinach, packed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
freshly cracked pepper
pinch kosher salt
6-7 cups marinara sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.
In a medium non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add Italian sausage and a heavy pinch of red pepper flakes and cook sausage, breaking up into small bits with a wooden spoon, about 4-5 minutes. Add chopped onion and sauté with the sausage until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Follow with the spinach and continue to cook until spinach wilts, another 3-4 minutes. Add in minced garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, making sure not to brown garlic. Turn off heat and let sausage & spinach mixture cool. Poor into a colander or large mesh strainer to drain out the excess liquid. When cool enough to handle, place the sausage & spinach mixture on a cutting board and roughly chop for filling.
In a large bowl transfer sausage & spinach mixture and stir in ricotta, egg, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley. Season with freshly cracked pepper and a pinch of kosher salt and stir evenly to combine.
Cook jumbo shells in a large pot of boiling water according to instructions. Drain noodles, and lay shells on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Set aside to cool.
Line the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish with 2-3 cups marinara. To stuff shells, fill each shell with 1½ tablespoons of the sausage spinach mixture. Layer shells in the prepared baking dish. When all shells are stuffed, pour remaining marinara on top, making sure to cover each shell. Repeat with the rest of the shells in an 8" x 8" baking pan. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella, cover baking dish with aluminum foil and transfer baking dish to an oven to bake for 30 minutes. Take off aluminum foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling.