If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll notice that I like to cook dishes that are simple, easy to prepare, and readily adaptable to someone else’s tastes or needs. Well, this recipe is all of that, and best of all, it’s absolutely delicious! These baked sausage and spinach shells were exactly the type of food I wanted to serve my family and friends on Christmas Eve – finger foods that were filling and hearty. I was right because they were a big hit at my buffet table! The shells held the filling together so my guests were able to pick them up with their fingers and eat them without making a mess. I received compliments all night long.
I used pork sausage links in the filling, but you may substitute chicken or turkey sausage or ground beef instead. In addition to spinach, you could also add mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions. I ended up using three different kinds of cheeses for this recipe – ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and grated parmesan. Use all three or keep it very simple with just ricotta and a sprinkling of mozzarella. These baked shells are versatile; you may serve them hot, right out of the oven or as an appetizer at a buffet table at room temperature. As a main entrée, add some some tomato sauce and a side salad and these shells would beautifully transform into a comforting dish, especially nice on a cold winter evening. Thanks to Joanne at my newest food blog discovery, Inspired Taste for this tasty recipe.
Baked Sausage and Spinach Pasta Shells
Yields approximately 18 individual shells
18 jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound fresh pork sausage links, casing removed and broken up
1 can (14-ounces) diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeeze dry
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle on top before baking
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shredded mozarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and ice, set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells and cook according to package directions. Drain well then add to ice bath until ready to stuff.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté briefly. Add the pork sausage and cook 5-6 minutes until browned. If needed, take a wooden spoon and break the sausage apart more. Add tomatoes, spinach and sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.*
Remove pan from heat and stir in ricotta cheese.
Using a spoon, fill pasta shells with sausage/spinach mixture and arrange in a baking dish (9-inch x 9-inch dish works well). Sprinkle the top with shredded mozarella and some more grated parmesan and then bake until cheese has melted and tips of shells begin to crisp and brown, about 25 – 30 minutes.
*Note: I prepared the filling, up to this point, and covered and stored it in the refrigerator overnight. When I was ready to bake the shells, I reheated the filling, added the ricotta and followed the rest of the recipe.
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