I can't take credit for this recipe since I "borrowed" it from one of my BakeSpace buddies, Spryte. This is the second time I've made these...which tells you they're totally worth repeating. The whole family loves them. So when our monthly potluck at work came around I thought I'd bring these babies in to share. What I didn't expect was for my 19 yr old daughter to instantly switch over to 6 yr old mode when she found out they weren't for dinner. Nothing like a high pitched whine telling you that "it's not fair" that you're making the stuffed shells for people at work and not for her to eat for dinner...because we all know that its all about "her".... Ya, that was a scene that completely brought home the whole essence of the phrase Drama Queen. I did bring home a couple for her to eat, so all's right in her world....for now (give that about an hour or so, I'm sure it will change).
Click here if you'd like to see Spryte's recipe: Spryte's Stuffed Shells
I didn't change anything significant when I made them...other than using more cheese and more spaghetti sauce. I'm kind of a cheese hound so I'm always adding more than what recipes call for and since I made the shells the night before, I knew they'd soak up all the sauce and therefore I increased that amount as well.
Sooo, here's what I did:
1 box jumbo shells
1 lb turkey Italian sausage, skins removed
1 - 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz (or 16 oz) ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded (plus a little more for topping)
1/2 plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Olive oil, as needed
1 - 25 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 - 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
2 cups (or more) shredded mozzarella cheese
Ok....before I get started...I have a beef: WHY do most recipes say 16 oz of ricotta cheese when the containers only come in 15 oz or 32 oz.? Ricotta cheese is too expensive to be buying more than you need therefore in most of my Italian recipes, I'm short an ounce of ricotta cheese....o'well, I make up for it in mozzarella). Also I just want to clarify: I was in a hurry and it was handy..... my favorite jar of spaghetti sauce is Prego Traditional with some garlic and Italian seasoning added to "Dr'" things up a bit. Even that wasn't really enough so thats why I added the can of tomatoes. I let the sauce simmer while I got everything else ready which also gave it time to cook away a lot of the liquid from the canned tomatoes.
Now...poor that whole box of shells into your boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Don't over cook them....you don't want soggy shells.
Once the shells are cooked, I suggest that you rinse them in cold water before you set them aside, separating the stubborn ones. This will accomplish 2 things.....it will stop the cooking process and it will rinse away a lot of the starch so you don't end up with a wad of pasta shells stuck together when you're ready to stuff them
Heat your pan and oil over medium heat and saute your onions, until tender. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add your sausage to the onions and continue cooking, separating the sausage until it's crumbly and brown.
Once your sausage is fully cooked, carefully add the spinach.
Don't worry....it's not too much. The first time I made this, I only added 1/2 of what the recipe called for. Then I saw how much it cooked down and added more...and more again...and again until I had indeed added the whole bag.
Ready for the good stuff?
In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese and egg, mixing well. Add the parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and bread crumbs:
Stir until combined, then stir in the meat mixture
And the fun has just begun! Time to get dirty:
Put enough spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole pan to cover bottom. Stuff each shell with a heaping spoonful of your meat / cheese mixture. You probably have enough for about 24 shells. Since you have cooked the whole box of shells, you are able to pick and choose which ones to use (who wants a torn or broken shell, right?)
Line them all up, nice and neat....
Cover them with the remaining spaghetti sauce and bake them for about 20 - 30 minutes in a 350' oven.
Sprinkle all that mozzarella cheese on top....and some parmesan cheese too if you'd like and bake for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and begins to brown.