Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

This is a little bit of a where-have-you-been-all-my-life recipe.

Serving Size: 8

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

A creamy, cheesy stuffed pasta shells recipe is a great thing to have in your arsenal. It’s one of the ultimate comfort foods, and this one is flecked with pretty green bits of fresh spinach.   It’s been a really long time since I’ve made or eaten stuffed shells, and once the idea of them ambled through my brain, it stuck. A craving that needed to be itched for sure.

The filling is laced with shredded Swedish-style Fontina, with great smooth and creamy body, and a delicate tartness. This is also a wonderful cheese to incorporate into your lasagna, pizza, and hot dip recipes.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Then the rich sauce gets lovely soft flavor from slightly sweet and mellow gouda.   Gouda is a great cheese to have on hand for everything from grilled cheeses sandwiches to shredding over chili, and it’s one of the first to go on a cheeseboard with its mild, very accessible flavor.

I would also try making these shells again with a layer of chunky tomato sauce underneath the cheese sauce, which would be result in a more saucy dish all around, in a great way.   The cheese sauce should always be on top in my opinion, so you get that bubbling, melty upper layer.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Interestingly, though, I made a version of this recipe with a smaller amount of thicker sauce (just about half of the milk and half-and-half), and when they cooled to room temperature they were delightfully easy to pick up by hand. For the right crowd, I think these would be an insanely great appetizer or picnic offering.   I would happily pick these up one at a time and shovel them in. (Ok, I did happily pick them up one at a time and shovel them in).

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman / themom100.com

This is the second installation in a series of posts I am doing with Roth cheese, and if you missed the macaroni and cheese, I suggest you work your way back to that. Then stick around, because things will continue to get cheesier….

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

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Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

  • kosher salt to taste
  • 3/4 pound dried jumbo shells (about 30 shells)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) ricotta cheese, preferably fresh
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Swedish-style Fontina
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup half-and half
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) gouda
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 6 large leaves fresh basil, very thinly sliced (julienned) – about 1/4 cup

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the jumbo shells according to package directions (there should be a set of instructions for cooking them for a shorter time, if they will be baked later. If not, cook them for 3 minutes less than the full cooking time). Drain the shells and rinse them with cold water in a colander or strainer. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta, fontina, 1/4 cup whole milk, and oregano, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine well.

4. Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until golden. Add the half-and-half and the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and stir often until the mixture just starts to come to a simmer. Turn the head to low, and add the gouda a handful at a time, stirring just until each batch is melted. Stir in the red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

5. Spoon a thin layer of the gouda cheese sauce into the bottom of a shallow 3-quart baking dish (a 9×13-inch pan works well). Use a spoon or your fingers to stuff the cooked shells with the spinach-ricotta mixture, dividing it evenly between the shells. Line them up neatly in the prepared pan, following the shape of the pan. Give the gouda cheese sauce another good stir, then pour it slowly and evenly over the stuffed shells.

6. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the heat up to 475°F and continue to bake for about another 10 minutes, until the top turns golden brown and everything is lovely and bubbling. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the basil, if desired, before serving.

This post has been sponsored by Roth cheese. All the opinions expressed are my very own.

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