Spinach + Artichoke Stuffed Shells is a hearty vegetarian meal that even the most ardent meat-lovers will enjoy. It comes together easily, can be made in advance, and can feed a hungry crowd of pasta lovers.
- 1 16-ounce package frozen artichoke quarters, defrosted and dried of excess moisture
- 2 9-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of all water
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for oiling the baking sheet)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 2 32-ounce containers whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for sprinkling on top)
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 12-ounce packages jumbo pasta shells
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt (for the pasta cooking water)
- 1 recipe classic tomato sauce
To make the filling
- Place the artichoke quarters and spinach in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse several times until the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture is uniform in texture. Set aside.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and minced garlic and sauté until it is light golden, stirring constantly. Adjust the heat to ensure the garlic does not burn. Add in the spinach-artichoke mixture, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of the pepper and stir to coat the vegetables in the olive oil.
- Cook the spinach-artichoke mixture over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it is heated through completely and is fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool. Note: to cool the spinach-artichoke mixture quickly, transfer it to a baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.
- Put the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and add in the cooled spinach-artichoke mixture, parsley, basil, eggs, mozzarella cheese, nutmeg, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the remaining ½ teaspoon pepper. Using a fork, mix the ingredients until they are completely incorporated.
- Set the filling aside while you cook the pasta shells.
To assemble the stuffed shells
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Coat a baking sheet with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add in the Kosher salt. Return the water to a boil and add in the pasta shells, stirring immediately to prevent them from sticking. Cook the pasta shells 2 minutes less than instructed on the package directions, stirring often. Drain the shells through a colander and transfer them immediately to the oiled baking sheet. Toss the shells to coat them with the olive oil (this will prevent them from sticking to each other). Separate any shells that are stuck together.
- Spread about ½ cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a large casserole dish.
- Fill each shell generously with the filling and place the shells open side up into the casserole dish in one layer.
- Pour about ½ cup of the tomato sauce over the shells and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the filling is heated through completely.
- Remove the foil and bake the shells an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.
- The filling can be made one day in advance, stored in a tightly covered container, and refrigerated.
- Squeeze as much of the water from the spinach as possible.
- I highly recommend grating your own cheese for the best texture.