counter create hit

RICOTTA STUFFED SHELLS

Deliciously Baked Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Introduction

Indulge in the creamy, cheesy goodness of Baked Ricotta Stuffed Shells. This classic Italian dish features jumbo pasta shells plumped full of creamy ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, spinach, and garlic, all topped with marinara sauce and a generous helping of mozzarella. Perfect for a family dinner or a special gathering, this recipe is sure to impress and satisfy. Join us as we guide you through the steps to create this delectable meal that combines comfort and elegance.

Ingredients and Preparation

Ingredients

To prepare this delicious dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 20 jumbo shells (½ of a 12-ounce box)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, stems removed and chopped
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese (reserve 1 cup for the top)
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil

Preparation Steps

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Cook the Pasta Shells: Boil the pasta shells al dente according to package instructions; drain well. It’s important not to over-boil them as they will cook further in the oven.
  3. Sauté the Spinach and Garlic: Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and spinach, cooking for 2-3 minutes or just until the spinach is wilted. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
  4. Mix the Cheese Filling: In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and the cooled spinach mixture.
  5. Prepare the Baking Dish: Spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch or equivalent-sized casserole dish.
  6. Stuff the Shells: Spoon the cheese mixture into the shells and place them in the casserole dish. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce in and around the shells.
  7. Bake the Shells: Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with parsley or basil before serving.

Baking and Serving

Baking the Shells

  1. Cover and Bake: Cover the stuffed shells with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the flavors to meld together.
  2. Uncover and Finish Baking: Uncover the dish and bake for another 20 minutes until the top is lightly golden and bubbly.

Serving Suggestions

Serve these baked ricotta stuffed shells warm, garnished with fresh parsley or basil. Pair them with a fresh garden salad and garlic bread for a complete meal. Enjoy the creamy, cheesy filling with every bite.

Tips for Perfect Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  1. Don’t Overcook the Pasta: Cook the pasta shells slightly al dente as they will continue to cook in the oven. Add a few extra shells when boiling, as some may tear.
  2. Spinach Options: You can use fresh or frozen spinach. If using frozen spinach, squeeze out as much moisture as possible to avoid watering down the sauce.
  3. Quality Marinara: Use a good quality marinara sauce or make your own homemade marinara for the best flavor.
  4. Enhance with Meat: For a heartier meal, add browned ground beef or Italian sausage to the filling or the marinara sauce.
  5. Sauce Variations: For a different flavor profile, try substituting Alfredo sauce for the marinara sauce.
See also  This dish is an absolute showstopper. What an explosion of flavor

FAQs

Can I prepare stuffed shells in advance?

Yes, you can prepare the stuffed shells up to the point of baking. Cover and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours before baking. You may need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time if baking directly from the refrigerator.

How do I store leftovers?

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat individual portions in the microwave or in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) until warmed through.

Can I freeze stuffed shells?

Yes, you can freeze stuffed shells. Assemble the shells in the baking dish, but do not bake them. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 2 months. To bake, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed, adding a few extra minutes if needed.

What can I use instead of ricotta cheese?

If you don’t have ricotta cheese, you can substitute cottage cheese. Blend the cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth for a similar texture to ricotta.

Can I use different types of cheese?

Feel free to experiment with different cheeses. Adding a bit of Asiago, Fontina, or even Gorgonzola can give a unique twist to the flavor profile.

What side dishes go well with baked ricotta stuffed shells?

Serve these shells with a fresh garden salad, garlic bread, or roasted vegetables. A glass of red wine also pairs wonderfully with this Italian dish.

How can I make this dish gluten-free?

To make this dish gluten-free, simply use gluten-free pasta shells and ensure your marinara sauce and other ingredients are gluten-free.

Conclusion

Baked Ricotta Stuffed Shells are a perfect blend of creamy ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, spinach, and garlic, all enveloped in tender pasta shells and topped with marinara and melted mozzarella. This classic Italian dish is both comforting and satisfying, making it ideal for family dinners or special occasions. By following this recipe and the tips provided, you can create a delightful and flavorful meal that will impress your guests and leave everyone wanting more. Enjoy the process of cooking and savoring this delicious dish, knowing you’ve created something truly special. Buon appetito!