Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Pesto

Ahhh cheese... Apparently it’s not “socially acceptable” to eat spoonfuls of ricotta out of the container like it’s yogurt. So we like to fall back on the classics to create a vessel for our cheese addiction and this dish will have you wishing you doubled the recipe. A new way to enjoy pesto, these stuffed shells are sure to impress everyone at the dinner table.

What you’ll need:

Tools:

  • Large pasta pot
  • Clean dishtowel
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board and knife
  • Large shallow baking dish
  • Culinary or pastry brush

Ingredients:

  • Salt and pepper
  • 10-12 oz (24-30 pieces) jumbo pasta shells 
  • 28 ounces fresh ricotta, whole milk preferred
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 oz spinach, lightly cooked until wilted and drained, or thaw frozen and drain
  • 4 scallions, white and green sections, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stalk
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½+ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup pecorino, plus ¼ cup more for topping, grated
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
  • ½ cup nut crumbs or bread crumbs
  • Pesto for drizzling on top (making your own is simple!)

1. Cook pasta shells to al dente per the package instructions in a large pot of salted water. Remove pasta from the pot and cool in a large bowl of water. Drain well and spread cooked shells on a baking sheet or cutting board lined with a kitchen towel so they don’t stick together.

2. Mix together the pasta filling by combining the ricotta, eggs, spinach, scallions, parsley, thyme, lemon zest and juice, crushed red pepper to taste, and grated cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly oil a large shallow baking dish, using multiple dishes if necessary. With a spoon, scoop about 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each pasta shell and fill the baking dish in a single layer, packing the filled shells next to each other. Use a culinary brush to gently coat the surface of the pasta lightly with olive oil.

4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup pecorino and nut or bread crumbs over top the shells and bake, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

5. Drizzle the shells with a little pesto and serve with extra pesto and cheese on the table. Enjoy!

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