Remember that old tongue twister? She sells sea shells at the sea shore! Can you say that 3 times fast? Remember?
Well, we can take those Jumbo Pasta shells and stuff them with wonderful things to make us happy whether we can do the tongue twister or not. In fact, our tongues will be just the place to start enjoying these yummy shells!
Most shells are stuffed with ricotta and spinach, some with tofu and spinach, but I like a more hearty combination, being the carnivore that I am! So this recipe will include sausage and surprise, surprise, it is not swimming in spaghetti sauce! Now that doesn’t mean you can’t serve some on the side; in fact, I often do, Sometimes I’ll even put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the casserole and let them cook in the sauce. But honestly, with the richness of the ricotta and the sausage, it really isn’t necessary.
Try it without and with and see which you prefer. Or, serve some sauce on the side for those who want to try it both ways!
- 16 – 18 jumbo pasta shells (get a few extra in case some tear)
- 1 lb. Fresh pork sausage, links or bulk (sweet or hot Italian is best, but breakfast works)
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 13×9 casserole with olive oil (or plain) spray and set aside.
Boil jumbo pasta shells according to package directions to just before al dente (since they will be cooked again). Once cooked, drain and put in a large bowl of ice water until ready to be stuffed.
If using links, carefully make a slit down one side of each link and squeeze out all of the sausage meat from the casings and discard casings. If using bulk sausage, this is not necessary.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; when hot, add sausage and using a wooden spoon to break the sausage apart, cook until sausage has browned and no “pink” remains. Add the minced garlic and stir-fry a minute longer. Don’t let the garlic burn.
Pour in the diced tomatoes, including juice. Add the thawed and squeezed spinach to the pan and stir.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the ricotta so the filling becomes a little creamier. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove a jumbo shell, shake out all the water, and gently fill it using a small spoon being sure it is full and sausage mixture shows at both ends. Set in prepared casserole. Continue until all shells have been filled and/or when the casserole is full. If you have extras, you can use a small baking dish for the extras. Sprinkle top of casserole with mozzarella cheese and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the cheese is has melted and the tips of the shells begin to crisp and brown.
Remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving. The tomatoes and cheese will help hold the heat and it will make serving a little easier.
Will make 8 generous servings and maybe some left-overs!