Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Shell-asagna

It's time for me to show you something I did right the other night.  Oh so right...yum.  I've been playing around with various versions of the "stuffed shell" and feel as though I've found the one I could eat every day of my life.  After the sizable batch I recently made, it will probably come to that. 

The thing about this recipe is you can play around with it, making it as basic or as fancy as you want.  My tastes are rudimentary and so basic is what you'll get here.  I'm a drooling freak over Kraft mac'n'cheese so don't expect a ton of gourmet coming from me.  I'm providing you with a solid foundation on which to build the shells of your dreams.

This recipe is also easy and makes for wonderful left-overs.  You can feed a crowd or you can feed two.  I'm planning on making it for my cousin after she pops her baby out in two weeks.  Her tastes are rudimentary too.  She likes bean burritos. Beans. Tortillas. That's it, she's happy.  This should be a definite hit.

Okay, here's what you'll need:

1 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Cloves of garlic, minced (I used the frozen cubes of minced garlic because I'm lazy)
6 oz. Bag of fresh baby spinach
1 Medium yellow onion
1 lb. Ground beef
15-20 Jumbo pasta shells (depending on how many people you want to feed and the size of your dish)
1 Jar of your favorite pasta sauce
16 oz. Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups Mozzarella, shredded

Now here is how you put together this cheesy, meaty, spinachy, goodness. You'll need about 1 hour to do it.  Will you accept this challenge?  Just kidding, if I can do it, the three year old down the street can.

1)  Heat your olive oil on Medium/Low in a deep skillet. While it's heating, mince your garlic and when done, toss it in and listen to it sizzle.  In my case I got to skip the mincing because Trader Joe's sells amazing minced garlic ice cubes. Stir the garlic around as it cooks for a minute or so.

2) Add the whole bag of fresh spinach.  That's right, all of it.  Does it make you uncomfortable?  It made me feel slightly uneasy at first but I got through it.  It looks so unnatural. Fluff it, stir it and coat it in the garlic.  In just a few minutes...

it will look like this...

It shrinks!  Didn't expect that did you?  You did? Oh. 

3) Scoop the limp and life-less spinach out of the skillet and put it into a medium size mixing bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese and stir it on up.  Then add the Parmesan cheese and stir it on down.  That's your shell stuffing, set it aside and move on.

4) Chop your onion and add it to the skillet that just worked the miracle on the all that spinach.  You want to cook it until it starts to look translucent.  While you're waiting for the onion to cook, fill a pot with water and start the boiling process.

5)  Once the onions are done, add your ground beef and cook until brown.

6)  Now it's time to drain the fat/grease.  Unless you want a myocardial infarction.  I don't know what a myocardial infarction is but it doesn't sound fun. I always save my pickle jars for this purpose and they work great.  Just don't ever use your turkey baster to suck the grease up.  It won't survive.  Just sayin'.

6) Add your pasta sauce to the freshly drained meat and stir it all in.  Cover and leave it to simmer for a few minutes.

7) Your water is hopefully boiling by now, if not, go make a salad for the meal like I did and then it better be boiling or else.  Just don't sit and watch it.  You know it will never boil if you do that.  Add your pasta shells to the water and make them all sink to the bottom.

You won't have to wait too long for the pasta shells to be done because you want them al dente. It took me about 7 minutes to get them perfect. They will cook the rest of the way in the oven. 

8) Preheat your oven to 425.  You are going to prepare to stuff!  If you're messy like me then you should probably get out some newspaper or wax paper and cover the surface over which you'll be stuffing.  Get your casserole dish out and gather your filling and mozzarella cheese.  Take a little bit of the sauce and lightly coat the bottom of your dish.

9) Now drain your noodles and begin filling each shell with the ricotta/spinach mix.  Fill it as much or as little as you like.  No one is judging.  I like to stuff them full because I like cheese, and let's face it, most of that is cheese.   

10)  Line them face up in your dish.  You can make them neat and cute or you can arrange them as if you were in a 7.0 earthquake like I did.  Again, no one will judge you.  Unless you guys are judging me?  Shoot next time I'm making them neat and cute.

11) Take your whole deep skillet of sauce and blanket those babies in a meaty quilt.  Now sprinkle or douse the sauce with your mozzarella.  See?  No one will end up seeing my disorganized mess of shells.  Sort of like covering up the clothes on your bed with your comforter.  I was always good at that. 

12) Cover your creation with foil and pop it in the oven.  Wave goodbye and say "see ya in 30 minutes!"

13) After 30 minutes in the oven, remove the foil, switch your oven settings to BROIL and give that cheese and nice baked crust for 5 minutes.  

There you are!  A meal for 8 for the next 31 days.  I like this "lasagna" style version and I really have no explanation as to why except there is more cheese...I like cheese.  Did I mention that?  Enjoy! 

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