I’m one of those people who needs to use a recipe when I cook. I’m not very good at “eyeballing”, and always need to measure. I rarely make up my own recipes as a result. There is one exception to this rule, however…Italian Food. My grandfather was full Italian, and I must have gotten the Italian Food gene, because I can make up pasta dishes and sauces and truly feel creative in the kitchen.
These rich cheese, spinach, pepper, and sausage filled Stuffed Shells are something I came up with, and they have been a hit for everyone who’s tried them. I’ve made them for family and for parties, and one woman even asked if I would cater her wedding after tasting these.
This makes a huge batch. About 48 shells. This is one of those meals that, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making them, you might as well make a lot. I like to freeze them in foil trays in increments of 12.
These are very good without the sausage, as well, for a vegetarian option.
- 1.5 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage, or links, casings discarded
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 bag, 10 oz, baby spinach
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 32 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 C mozzarella cheese
- 1 C parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1.5 boxes (12 oz) large pasta shells
- 2 (24 oz) jars spaghetti sauce
- In a large skillet, saute Italian sausage with garlic and onion in a little olive oil until sausage is close to being cooked through.
- Add bell peppers, cook until peppers are slightly crispy and sausage is cooked, brown and crumbly.
- Add spinach, and stir until wilted.
- Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, mix cheeses and seasonings. Taste and adjust as necessary.
- When flavor is good, add the eggs, and stir until well combined.
- Add cheese mixture to cooled meat mixture.
- Cook pasta shells until al dente, about 2-3 minutes less than the box recommends. The bottoms of the shells should still be hard. (They will continue to cook in the oven.)
- Drain the shells, and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Stuff meat and cheese mixture into shells.
- Spread a little bit of sauce in the bottom of each pan.
- Place stuffed shells in baking dish.
- Top with more sauce, and a little parmesan cheese if desired.
- At this point, freeze the shells you want to freeze. If you want to cook them now, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until bubbly and hot.
- To cook frozen shells straight from the freezer, cover with foil and bake at 350 with foil on for 35-40 minutes. Take foil off and cook an additional 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
- You can also freeze the shells without sauce, and add sauce when you go to cook them.