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Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

A mixture of spinach & ricotta is stuffed into giant pasta shells, which are then topped with a tomato sauce and cheese and baked.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

Spinach Stuffing:

  • 25 g butter salted or unsalted
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped about 60 g in weight, ⅓ cup in volume
  • 2 fat cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 200 g spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 250g tub of ricotta cheese Or a pack of paneer (200 - 225g), crumbled
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil I use 'light in colour' as I prefer a neutral-tasting oil for this
  • 1 tbsp butter salted or unsalted
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped about 60 g in weight, ⅓ cup in volume
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g can finely chopped tomatoes or use the same quantity of fresh tomatoes, chopped finely
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes optional

Rest:

  • 200 g giant shells (conchiglie), about 20 I used Tesco Finest Conchiglie Rigate
  • 10 g butter for greasing the dish
  • 150 - 250 g mozzarella cheese block, not pre-grated

Instructions
 

Spinach Stuffing:

  • In a medium pan, melt the butter on a gentle heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  • Add spinach & a large pinch of salt and cook over high heat until the spinach wilts. Keep frying until all the liquid in the mixture evaporates. This could take 10 - 15 minutes depending on the heat and the size of your pan.
  • Add the ricotta/paneer and stir to mix. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe the pan with kitchen paper and use it to make the tomato sauce next.

Tomato Sauce:

  • Add the oil and butter to the pan, then heat gently until the butter melts. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  • Now add the can of tomatoes, oregano, salt and sugar. Bring up to a boil and simmer for a minute or two. Turn off the heat, add the lemon zest, black pepper and chilli flakes, if using. Taste, adjust seasonings if necessary, cover and set aside.

Assembly:

  • Preheat oven to 180° C. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook for 5 minutes only. The pasta needs to be only par-cooked as we'll finish cooking it in the oven. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Butter an ovenproof dish (mine is about 9" x 9", 23 x 23 cm). Stuff each pasta shell with about 1/2 a tbsp of the spinach filling and place in the baking dish. Repeat with all the shells, then top with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer on top, cover the dish with foil and bake, covered, for about 20 - 25 minutes . Preheat the grill.
  • Uncover, and place under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is golden.
Keyword baked, mozzarella, paneer, pasta, ricotta, spinach, tomatoes