Monday, January 24, 2011

Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

I had a big bunch of spinach in the fridge, and didn’t want to make the usual palak panner, or palak paratha with it. So I decided to make spinach stuffed pasta shells. It tasted great, and made for more than 4 servings:), so we had it for dinner, and took the rest for lunch the next day. I used readymade pasta sauce instead of making it fresh at home, but you can definitely use your favorite recipe for homemade pasta sauce.

Here is the recipe for making spinach stuffed pasta shells.

1 Bunch Spinach,
1 Packet Jumbo Pasta Shells, (12 OZ)
Salt, to taste,
2 Garlic Cloves, Finely Chopped
1/3rd Cup Ricotta Cheese,
1/3rd Cup, Parmesan Cheese,
8-10 Italian Basil Leaves,
5-6 Mint Leaves,
2 Tablespoon, Italian Parsley ( I used cilantro, because that is what I had available at home).
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper, or To Taste,
3 Teaspoon Olive Oil

Cook the pasta per the package instruction, but cook it for a little less time, because it will continue cooking in the oven.

Separate the spinach leaves from the stems, and discard the stems. Heat olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook for a minute or two, then add the spinach leaves, mint leaves, basil, parsley and salt. Cook uncovered until the spinach starts wilting. Now add the ricotta cheese and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Switch off the stove and let it cool completely.

In the mean time, take a deep baking sheet and spread about two ladle full of the readymade pasta sauce on the bottom of the pan. Strain the pasta, and arrange them in a layer on the baking sheet. Do not put them too close together, or they will start sticking. Let them cool on the baking sheet.

Now, transfer the cooled spinach mixture into a grinder and grind to a thick paste. Do not add any water. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. While the oven is heating up, fill each pasta shell with the spinach mixture. I filled each shell with about 2 spoons of the mixture. Coat the filled shells with readymade pasta sauce. Make sure that all shells are covered with the pasta sauce, or the exposed shells will become dry. Spread the parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. Chop up 1-2 basil leaves, and sprinkle them on the cheese for garnishing. Cover the baking dish with an aluminum foil and bake on the center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Take out of the oven and serve hot with some warm italian bread or garlic bread on side.

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