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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
1 Box jumbo shells
1/2 Medium onion, diced
5 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Lb sausage or ground meat
1-28 Oz can crushed tomatoes, plus 1-15 Oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 Cup red wine
30 Oz ricotta cheese
1 Cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 Egg
12 Basil leaves, chiffonade, plus extra for serving
1-1/2 Cups packed cooked spinach, squeezed dry
Salt and pepper

I'm officially out of summer mode, which means more time at work and shorter days, so I need quick meals to get through the week.  I scoured my cookbooks and the internet for large casseroles and one-pot-meals to get me through the fall and winter.  My inspiration for this week comes from The Pioneer Woman's Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce.  I added some cooked baby spinach to my ricotta mixture, and I used chicken sausage as my protein (any ground meat will do though).  While she claims this dish can be thrown together in no time, I believe stuffed shells are pretty labor intensive (stuffing dozens of slippery pasta shells ain't easy).  Either way, it's a good project for a Saturday or Sunday.  Did I mention that this recipe makes enough for a small army?  Enjoy hot, bubbly, cheesy goodness all week long!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the meat and cook until nicely browned.  Add the wine, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook the shells for about half the cooking time (they will finish cooking in the oven).  Drain.

In a large bowl combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, and spinach.  Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir in basil.

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with some of the sauce.  Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture, making sure not to over stuff.  Lay seam-side down in the baking sheet.  Repeat.

Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and bake for 25 minutes.  Finish with more fresh-grated parmesan cheese and basil.      

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.