Let me start off by telling you that I’m a terrible cook! I make 2 things well. I make great Oatmeal meatloaf, which I’ll share with you all eventually, and spaghetti. I have been known to mess up Kraft Mac N Cheese. So, I took on this task for Valentine’s Day dinner and I know it scared the heck out of my husband who is normally the cook in the house. Well I actually pulled it off. See the delicious recipe below.
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes
Makes about 5 servings (if all or most of the shells are in tact)
- 12 Oz. pkg. of Jumbo Shell Pasta
- 15 Oz. part skim ricotta cheese (I used part skim, not whole, to cut down on the fat)
- 4 Oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (the store was out, but you can use 2% mozzarella for the same reason. I used fresh mozzarella and finely grated it.)
- 1/2 Cup basil pesto
- 1 Lg. egg
- 2 Cups, chopped, fresh spinach (I used 3 cups for a little extra veggie)
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil)
- 3 Cups pasta sauce, about one 8 oz. jar (I used Preggo Traditional)
In a bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, pesto and the egg together. The egg keeps the filling from getting too runny when cooked. Roughly chop the spinach and stir into the cheese mixture. Refrigerate the filling until you’re ready to use it. I made this the night before so I didn’t have to do it all at once.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Add 1 Tbsp. cooking oil to boiling water to keep the shells from sticking to each other or the pot. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to overcook shells or they will rip when filling. I cooked about 12 minutes (at 1200 feet) and they came out perfectly. Drain the shells and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain shells again.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. The shells roll up tight when they’re cooked so use your fingers to hold them apart as you spoon in about 3 Tbsp. of the pesto cheese mixture into the center of each shell. There should be enough pesto cheese mix to fill the shell so that it stays open just slightly with the edges about a 1/2-inch apart.
Spread one cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a glass baking dish. I made 14 shells and used a 7×11 inch glass dish and they fit nice and tightly. Place all sells in the baking dish. You want to pack them in tightly in a single layer. If you space them too far apart, they will dry while cooking. Pour the remaining 2 cups of sauce over the top of the shells. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges.
I also chopped up some remaining spinach and lightly garnished the top of the shells before serving. I served the shells with french bread and a tossed salad. My husband thought that overall the shells and stuffing were a little too rich, but I absolutely loved it! Tell me what you think!
Any extra pesto you have can be frozen for use later! I’m going to try a Pesto Bruschetta with my leftovers!