Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells with Quick & Easy Pasta Sauce

For the last day of the marathon, I cooked with spinach & milk as one of the two ingredients from The BloggerAid Cook Book. This recipe was contributed by Megan E. Jones who blogs here. Pasta shells are stuffed with spinach, milk & ricotta cheese and baked on a bed of pasta sauce.

After two days of Indian recipes, today I wanted to make something different and picked this recipe. I made this for dinner tonight but my dear husband was not in a mood to eat pasta. We ended up ordering Thai food. This is gonna be our dinner and my lunch tomorrow. I did taste it a little to see how it tastes and I felt I should have spiced it a little more and also may be added more sauce.  I made 1/3 of the recipe and followed the homemade pasta sauce recipe given in the book. Filling the shells was a little time consuming and took me almost 15 minutes to fill all the shells.

Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells with Homemade Pasta Sauce

Source: The BloggerAid Cook Book contributor Megan E. Jones
Total Time: 60 – 75 minutes
Preparation: 45 minutes – 1 hour (includes preparation of pasta sauce and cooking pasta & filling the shells)
Baking Time: 17 minutes

Ingredients:
Pasta Sauce: (will need only half the sauce for 8 oz pasta shells)

  • ½ large Onion finely chopped or minced
  • 3 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 4 tsp. Oil
  • 1 can (14 oz) Chopped Tomatoes with Garlic & Olive Oil (recipe called for 12 oz crushed tomatoes with garlic but I could not find a 12 oz can)
  • 2 tsp. fresh Oregano finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Basil finely chopped (recipe called for 2 tsp. but I like basil so added more)
  • 1 Bay Leave
  • ½ tsp. Pepper Powder (adjust to taste)
  • ½ tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)

Stuffed Pasta Shells:

  • 8 oz large Pasta Shells (I used No. 50 and these were the largest pasta shells I could find in the store)
  • ¾ – 1 cup Meatless Pasta Sauce (can use store bought or follow the homemade recipe given bellow. I used ¾ cups and felt I used have used a little bit more pasta sauce)
  • ¾ tsp. chopped Fresh Oregano (can omit if using homemade sauce)
  • ¾ tsp. chopped Fresh Basil (can omitted if using homemade sauce )
  • 1/6 cup Fat Free Milk
  • 1 Slice Bread crust removed
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 cup or 10 oz frozen chopped Spinach
  • 5 oz. Fat Free Ricotta Cheese (about ½ – 2/3 cups ricotta cheese)
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • ½ – ¾ tsp. Pepper Powder (adjust to taste)
  • ½ – ¾ tsp. Salt (adjust to taste)
  • ¼ cup (little less) Parmesan Cheese Shredded (recipe called for ½ Parmesan & ½ Asagio Cheese but I used only Parmesan)
  • 1 tbsp. Pine Nuts

Preparation:
Sauce:

  • I lightly crushed the can of tomatoes with a stick blender as my tomatoes were chopped and not crushed, as the recipe called for. One can use a food processor or a blender too but I find this stick blender very handy in the kitchen.
  • In a sauce pan heat oil and saute onions until translucent and turn light brown on medium heat. This will take about 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the herbs, salt, pepper, can of tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stuffed Pasta Shells:

  • Follow the instructions on the box to cook pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pasta sauce as mentioned above or use the store bought pasta sauce.
  • In a large baking dish, spread pasta sauce and sprinkle oregano & basil if using store bought pasta sauce and keep aside. Do remember we will require only ½ the pasta sauce from the recipe mentioned above. I used a 3 quart baking dish and I felt I should have used a bigger dish as the shells were crowded.
  • In microwave safe bowl, take a little water and thaw spinach in the microwave for 2 ½ minutes. Transfer spinach to a sieve or a colander and squeeze out as much water as possible and keep aside.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
  • In a food processor, blend together bread, milk and oil. Add spinach, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper , nutmeg and run the processor again until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Transfer the spinach mixture to a pastry bag with a large nozzle or a ziploc bag and pipe it into the pasta shell. I did not use a nozzle with my Ziploc bag. I cut the tip of the bag and piped the spinach mixture into the shell. Place each shell on the pasta sauce, leaving very little gap between two shells. As I mentioned earlier, I used 3 quart baking dish and felt I should have used a bigger pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven. Turn off the oven and turn on the broiler/grill.
  • Sprinkle cheese and pine nuts on the shells and broil the shells until cheese melts and pine nuts are light brown. I broiled for 2 minutes & 15 seconds. I would suggest checking it after 1 1/2 minutes to check if the cheese is melted.
  • Serve hot.

Recipes this day in 2011: Ground Turkey Canapes
Recipes this day in 2012: V8 Rasam

Recipes I posted this month in 2008 , in 2009 , in 2011 and in 2012.
Blogging Marathon: To know more about the various themes and participating bloggers for this marathon, checkout the blogging marathon page on Srivalli’s blog

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