March 16, 2010

Stuffed Shells with Homemade Ricotta & Spinach {Webisode #16}


What’s Going on Today: Taking my daughter to museum then out to lunch with her friends! (When did she start having lunch appointments?)
Naptime Goals: Make homemade ricotta and homemade tomato sauce so that dinner is all set to assemble this evening.
Tonight’s Menu: Baked Stuffed Shells with Homemade Ricotta.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Whoever thought of Daylights Savings Time was NOT a parent!

I’ve been hooked on making homemade ricotta for a while, many thanks to my friend Jennifer Perillo, and I’ve always been a fan of homemade marinara sauce. In both cases, the homemade versions are FAR superior to anything found at the store and are incredibly easy to make. Hopefully, with this webisode you’ll see that making homemade ricotta and homemade marinara sauce takes very little time and and is well worth the effort.

Of course, once you’ve taken the time to actually both of these delicious things it is important to incorporate them into a fabulous meal where their flavors can really shine. There have been many times I’ve made terrific lasagnas and spaghetti dishes tossed with ricotta and marinara, but over the weekend I wanted to try something different. Why not, I thought, makeover my old childhood favorite, stuffed shells.

I think stuffed shells have gotten a bad rap over time for being boring and bland, but I am doing my best to repair their reputation. With this recipe I stuff the shells with a filling of homemade ricotta and spinach, then top them with a light layer of homemade marinara. The result is a terrific dish of light baked pasta, creamy cheese and delicious, healthy winter greens. Also, as you’ll see here, I was able to assemble everything while my daughter napped, place it in the fridge and bake it right before dinner.

When I served this to my husband and daughter they were both enamored with the silky texture of the cheese and, in my daughter’s case, the cool shape of the pasta shell. I think she was intrigued by how different they looked from her former favorite, ravioli. Ah, kids. Either way, I was thrilled with their warm reception.

Recipe

Stuffed Shells with Homemade Ricotta and Spinach

Ingredients

1 batch Jennifer Perrillo’s Homemade Ricotta OR
2 c. fresh ricotta bought at the store

Homemade Marinara:

2 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes, with juices
6 T. butter, unsalted
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 T. dried basil, or 1 T. fresh basil, torn
2 t. Kosher Salt

A good crank or two of black pepper

Stuffed Shells

1 1lb. large shell pasta
10 oz. chopped spinach, (fresh or frozen), dried
½ c. Parmesan cheese
2 c. good fresh ricotta (homemade or store bought)

Crank of good pepper

Instructions

1. For the Marinara: Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and allow to simmer on very low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After simmering is complete, discard the onion halves and serve.

1. For the Pasta: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and allow cool until you can easily handle them.
2. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, parmesan cheese and pepper. Mix it with a fork until well combined but still fluffy.
3. Pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Then, scoop a heaping teaspoonful of mixture into each shell and line them up in the baking dish. Ladle a second layer of marinara sauce on top of the shells and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
4. Bake for 35 minutes, or until heated through.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

This dish can be prepared ahead of time and left, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge until baking. Both homemade ricotta and homemade marinara sauce can be used for a variety of things. I highly recommend also using these for lasagnas, pizzas or breads. I recommend serving this with a big green salad.

Naptime Stopwatch

Ricotta: 15 minutes (so easy!) Marinara: 5 minutes for sauce, 45 minutes for simmering. Baked Shells: 15 minutes for assembly, plus baking time.

Naptime Reviews

My daughter was so confused, she thought her ravioli has burst open when she first looked at the shells! It proved to be a great dish for both kids and adults.

More Naptime Recipes

  • Chow and Chatter

    wow what a great meal yummy

  • Chow and Chatter

    wow what a great meal yummy

  • sweetlife

    what a great dinner..they look super tasty!!sweetlife

  • sweetlife

    what a great dinner..they look super tasty!!sweetlife

  • sweetlife

    what a great dinner..they look super tasty!!

    sweetlife

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