Cooking On A Budget: Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells


The end photograph does not do this plate of scrumptious food justice. It was difficult to get the sausage and spinach stuffed shells out of the dish and not have it kind of spill around. However you will not be disappointed with this recipe. By adding cream cheese to the ricotta, the filling is smooth and luscious and combined with the spinach, sausage and spices makes for satisfyingly delicious bites.

My husband and I can tomatoes from our garden tomatoes and make sauce. This sauce we put up in 2013 is so good - we don't have to even use tomato paste to thicken it. I highly recommend canning to anyone. So it was red sauce we used in this recipe. However back in 2011 I made these with a Parmesan Cream Sauce. An added bonus at the end of the stuffed shell recipe and photographs is the Parmesan Cream Sauce - which by the way is killer good.
Initially when I posted I forgot to add up the cost for this dinner. The total cost was $13.07 including a salad on the side. There were 22 stuffed shells made and should be enough for 5 at $2.61 per person.

For the stuffing:
  • 1 lb. Italian sweet or hot sausage - casing removed
  • 1 box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 - 10 oz. box frozen spinach - thawed and water squeezed out
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes + some for sprinkling on cheese topping
  • 2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • shredded cheese for the top
  • dried oregano - optional for sprinkling on cheese topping
  • dried basil - optional for sprinkling on cheese topping
  1. Cook the pasta to the manufacturers directions. Cook just until the shells are pliable to work with. Drain and in this case rinse the pasta in cold water and separate the shells. I laid them out on a large cooling rack while they awaited the filling.
  2. In a frying pan over medium heat, cook the sausage three quarters of the way cooked; breaking apart and stirring as you go. Remove from the heat and pulse in a food processor until the sausage is crumbly.
  3. Next, add in the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and the spices and pulse until well blended.
  4. Finally, fold in the frozen spinach and you are ready to fill each shell with about 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture.
  5. Put some of your red sauce, or the Parmesan cream sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Pour sauce over the top - a generous amount, then top off with some shredded mozzarella cheese. If you want sprinkle some of the dried parsley, oregano and basil on top of the cheese.

The Sauce:
  • 1/2 qt. milk
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. finely minced fresh basil (highly recommended) or 1 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. white pepper (replace with black if that's all you have)
  1. In a sauce pot heat the milk and heavy cream over medium low heat until you see a bit of steam coming up.
  2. Next, add in the white pepper and basil, stir and turn down the heat to low.
  3. Stir occasionally and allow the flavors to meld - about 3 minutes.
  4. Add in the Parmesan cheese and whisk until well incorporated. When the sauce just begins to bubble at the edges remove from the heat.
  5. Spray the bottom of an oven proof glass casserole dish or deep nonstick baking pan with a cooking spray.
  6. Add in the shells, cover with the sauce and bake covered in a 350° oven for about 1 1/2 hours giving the shell mixture a chance to cook thoroughly. The sauce should be bubbling as well.

Serve with a side salad for a complete dinner.
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