Spinach and Ricotta stuffed Shells

By Patrizia Cucca

I realized, after having a conversation with my eight year old nephew how sad it is that kids today don’t have the sense of security I remember having when I was that same age. I would love to pass on the security and the stability I felt as a child, blessed and fortunate to grow up in a caring and loving home. There are a few obvious changes that have occurred in the past twenty years alone. For instance, there were only a few people who had a cell phone and the only way kids even knew what they looked like was from watching Saved By The Bell. If you wanted to talk to your friends, you had to call them. When you made plans with your friends, you had to show up. And we all had a superhero-like ability to remember the phone numbers of every one of our friends and family. There was no shame in going to McDonalds, pizza night was so rare it was worth bragging about and Kool-Aid was a staple in the fridges of all your friends…and who knew then what gluten was? Remember when people used to say, I guess we’ll never know? If you don’t, then you were definitely born in a post-Google world. If you didn’t have an encyclopedia, wise relative or teacher nearby, there are some things you’d resign yourself to never finding out. Something that’s totally unthinkable today. Who remembers Toonie Tuesdays? They were everything! We’d beg our parents to bring us to the video store and were pumped when they’d still have copies of the latest must-see available. Other than that, you relied on the TV Guide to plan all your movie watching. You’d wake up with the sun to catch a few precious hours of cartoons on Saturday mornings and if you missed your favorite show, tough luck. You just had to wait for the next time. Photos were only taken on special occasions. You’d fish out the camera and pray that the batteries were still good. Everything was developed and had no flattering filters. Our version of deleting was to rip it up or scratch out the bad bits. Being forced to play indoors was punishment. Like for real punishment. Being grounded meant you weren’t allowed to go outside and it was torture. There was also a universal law of outside play: go home when the street lights come on. Life has changed so dramatically in recent years. Mass shootings have become an all too common story on our evening news shows. The threat of terrorist attacks are something we are forced to think about all too often. There is a tremendous amount of hostility towards one another, it is frightening. Life was so much simpler and sweeter when I was young. Perhaps it’s because of all the technological advancement or perhaps my naive nature. I am not too sure but I do know that we had parents who loved us and weren’t afraid to discipline us. Our homes were filled with emotions, excitement and constant family interaction. We ate well with few limitations. Whether it be choice of diet or health related reasons today we all watch our food intake. As a result today’s recipe, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells is a healthy and hearty baked pasta dish that makes for a very delicious meal.
216 jumbo pasta shells (Cook a couple of extra shells to allow for a few breaking while the pasta cooks.)
21-1/2 tbsp olive oil
22 tsp fresh garlic, minced
24 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves, roughly-chopped
212 oz ricotta cheese
21 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
21/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
21 large egg
21 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
21 tsp kosher salt
21/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
21-1/4 cups marinara sauce
2Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about a minute or two. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. The spinach should be reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a shallow 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture, and place in the baking dish.
2Cover with the remaining sauce and bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to brown and the sauce begins the bubble, another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with a dusting of Parmesan.



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