Stuffed Shells with Pesto and Spinach

I forgot to take pictures, so this entry is coming in a little late. Also, the pictures are of the shells after freezing, defrosting, and going through the microwave. They’re still gorgeous and gooey, however, and I swear they taste twice as good.

This recipe is primarily comprised of pasta and cheese, but has some interest added with the addition of fresh spinach and the leftover pesto from Budget Bytes’ pesto pasta with chicken and broccoli.

Pesto only lasts about a week in the fridge according to the FDA, and while I often thumb my nose at their “health regulations,” I don’t know enough about pesto’s degradation process to flirt with food borne illness.

Does pesto rot? Get mold? Curdle? I just don’t know, folks.

This recipe is also from Budget Bytes because, although Moncel might talk me into buying ingredients I’ve never heard of before, her recipes reuse these ingredients enough so that they don’t go to waste.

I followed Moncel’s recipe closely, although I made a bit too much pasta and had to pack the last few shells lightly.

Stuffed Shells with Pesto and Spinach

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes

2016-02-11 17.51.12
These three raggedy pesto shells have been waiting for my fork for months.

Ingredients

12 ounces jumbo shell pasta

15 ounces part skim ricotta

4 ounces (1 cup) shredded mozzarella

½ cup basil pesto

1 egg

2 cups fresh spinach (optional)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

3 cups pasta sauce

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together ricotta, mozzarella, pesto and egg (the egg keeps the filling from getting too runny when cooked). Roughly chop the spinach and stir it into the cheese mixture. Refrigerate the filling until you are ready to use it.
  1. Cook the pasta until al dente (use the directions on the box). Add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil to the boiling water to keep the shells from sticking to each and the pot. Gently stir a few times during cooking. Be careful not to overcook the pasta or it will rip easily and be too mushy after cooking with the filling and sauce. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Let the pasta drain and cool.*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. The shells roll up tight when they are cooked so use the fingers on one hand to hold them open as you spoon about 3 tablespoons of pesto cheese mix into the center of each. There should be enough pesto cheese mix to fill the shell so that it stays open just slightly (the edges should be about ½ inch apart). Fill as many shells as you can with the cheese mix.
  1. Spread one cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a glass baking dish. I used a 9 x 11 dish and it fit pretty well. You want to pack them in tightly in a single layer. If you space them too far apart, they will dry out during the cooking process. Place all of the shells in the baking dish as close together as possible and pour the remaining 2 cups of sauce over top. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 F or until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges.

* I didn’t let the pasta cool before trying to pry it open with my bare hands. This was a poor life decision.

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