Our flower beds remind us of passing time and the care we take to watch them blossom and grow. My wife spends at least an hour day in her gardens weeding, watering, and feeding the plants. But, sometimes something happens and the plants don’t grow or bloom despite how we tend to them.
We were recently notified that a childhood friend of my daughter’s had been murdered back in our hometown. It is shocking and upsetting. My mother-law once said after her son died, “No mother should ever outlive their child.” My heart breaks for my friend, her mother, and her loss.
It was a night for comfort food. Creamy cheesy goodness. What I love about this recipe is that it is easy to make half the pan with just cheese and spinach and then add the meat for the other half of the pan if you wish. My daughter is trying to cut back on meat so this was super easy to modify for her.
Verdict: From all the happy noises around the table it was a hit. My daughter had half a pan of cheese and spinach shells while the rest of us had a few of both the spinach and the ones with sausage and spinach. Everyone wanted these for lunch the next day!
We served this with green beans, a green side salad, and garlic bread to complete the meal.
- 20–22 jumbo shells (12–14 ounce box)
- 24 ounces marinara (use your favorite – I love Rao’s right now)
- 1 lb ounces ground sweet or hot Italian sausage
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1+ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2–3 garlic cloves, minced finely or 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
- 2-3 large handfuls baby spinach, stems removed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 6–7 basil leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta shells al dente according to package instructions.
- In a large skillet, cook sausage until fully cooked through and browned, about 5-7 minutes. As it is cooking bread it into tiny pieces. Drain any grease from the pan.
- In a small skillet place the olive oil and baby spinach over medium heat. Cook until just wilted 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
- Transfer the spinach to a bowl with ricotta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and egg. Mix well.
- Place 1 cup of marinara in the bottom a 13 x 9 pan.
- If you wish to make spinach and cheese only shells Take each shell and fill with cheese and spinach mixture or as many as you would like without meat. Once those are made add sausage to cheese mixture and stir well. Finish stuffing remaining shells packing them into pan as tightly as possible.
- Top each shell with a heaping teaspoon of marinara. Layer the entire dish with 1+ cup of shredded mozzarella (more is OK too).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is fully melted and golden. Finish with a broil for 1-2 minutes to give the cheese a nice browning. Let cool 5 minutes, top with extra chopped basil and serve.