Guest Post: Mama Loves Cooking -Super Stuffed Shell

Whenever I think of stuffed shells, I think of ricotta cheese. It’s a very tiny curded cheese that is VERY bland and does not melt so easily. So how can you make your stuffed shells POP with flavor? Check out my recipe and you’ll definitely turn this regular meal into a most flavorful meal!

Super Stuffed Shells
(Makes about 30 to 40 shells serving 6 to 8)
1 16 oz. box of large shells, cooked 16oz. (1lb.) container of ricotta cheese (can be skim or whole, your choice) 1lb. of ground beef 1 small box of frozen spinach or 1 bunch of parsley chopped 1 onion, minced 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced 1 cup of pizza blend cheese (Or for a mellower flavor, 1 cup of Italian blend cheese) 1 2lb., 13 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (can be any flavor, but I recommend a sweeter sauce like a tomato, garlic, onion blend)

1. Start boiling water for your jumbo shells. Boil the pasta according to the box.

TIP: When you drain the shells, run cold water to cool the shells down. Discard any horribly split shells and unwanted pasta pieces. If a shell has a small split in it, don’t reject it. It’s still good! Separate the shells so that they don’t stick.

2. Chop onion and garlic until finely minced (chopped into very tiny pieces). (Chop parsley finely if you want to use parsley instead of spinach.) Set aside.

TIP: Mincing can be a very tedious task. Use a small food chopper (found at your local “Super Store” for only $10) to finely mince your onion and garlic.

3. Start to brown the ground beef. Add the minced onion and garlic. Stir together until mixed. Make sure that as you cook the ground beef that you use your spoon or spatula to chop up the meat finely.

Remember, this is part of the filling for the shells so you want it to be as fine as possible. Large clumps will only make it more difficult to fit inside of the pasta shells. Continuously stir the meat, onion and garlic mixture until fully cooked.

While your meat is browning:

4. Take the box of frozen spinach and microwave according to the directions on the box.

TIP: When microwaving the spinach, use a microwave safe dish and cover with plastic wrap like this:

This prevents the moisture from evaporating from the spinach which if it did, then you’d have dry spinach. Gross!

5. Empty container of ricotta cheese into a mixing bowl. Use an electric hand-held mixer to soften the cheese a bit more. Granted it’s soft already, but it’s been stuck in that container form for a little while. Using the mixer will allow for easy stirring later.

6. Add spinach to the ricotta cheese.

TIP: If your spinach has too much moisture to it, then drain the moisture by pressing a few paper towels on the spinach.

7. Add shredded cheese mixture. I highly recommend using the pizza blend because the cheddar will add some tanginess to the stuffing mixture. I promise, it’s very yummy.

8. When the meat, onion, & garlic mixture is fully cooked, drain all of that unwanted grease from the mixture.

9. Add meat, onion, & garlic mixture to the cheeses and spinach. Stir together using a spoon until well blended. This mixture is too thick for an electric hand-held mixer.

10. Preheat oven for 350°.

11. Spray baking pans (You’ll need at least two.) with cooking spray. Do not use cookie sheets. These pans are too shallow for the shells.

12. Spoon a little over a Tablespoon of the stuffing mixture into each shell. Line the shells in rows until your baking pans are full or until you have run out of shells or mixture. Cover each pan with foil tightly.

13. Bake for 20 minutes.

14. Warm the sauce in a sauce pan about 10 minutes before pulling the shells out of the oven.

15. The shells will be nice and hot after 20 minutes are up, so be careful pulling them out of the oven. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes.

16. Place desired amount of shells on a plate and spoon sauce over the shells. Serve as is, with garlic bread and/or salad.