Spinach Stuffed Shells

Spinach Stuffed Shells

I always loved stuffed shells growing up.

We didn’t have them that often, mostly because of the steps involved in making them.  They’re easy to make, but take a bit of preparation.  But the end result of gooey cheese smothered tomato sauce makes the effort well worthwhile.

And to spice things up a bit, I like to add in some spinach these days.

My kids like spinach and will eat it with just some spices, but I like to mix it into other dishes, too, like Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken, just to change things up now and then.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

The basic recipe consists of a bunch of cheese mixed together, stuffed into shells, and surrounded by tomato sauce.

Nothing bad about that, right??

{I mean, except that the only Ricotta I could get at a last minute’s notice was the Wal-mart brand, but that’s beside the point.  It worked.}

In the past, I didn’t usually use Mascarpone, but the recipe on the Barilla box included it, and I wanted to try it.

I’m glad I did.

It adds a nice soft, creamy texture and slight tang that makes a subtle but noticeable difference to the normal Ricotta and Mozzarella mix.  If you can’t find it, it’s not essential, but I suggest trying it.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

After mixing all the cheese and spices together, then you’ll add in the spinach.

But the most important part of prepping the spinach is to make sure you completely drain it of water.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Spinach tends to hold a lot of water.  The water will make your recipe wet.  Wet means the cheese will be slippery and the tomato sauce won’t stick.  Not what you want.

I’ve tried a lot of different ways to drain it, but I favor just putting the spinach in a mesh colander and pressing it with a fork until no more water drips out.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

After cooking the macaroni, lay them out for a few minutes so that they’ll be cool enough to handle.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Fill the shells with the cheese mixture and lay them in a pan whose bottom has been generously layered with tomato sauce and spices.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Doesn’t that look beautiful?

But you’re not done yet.  Most recipes will just put cheese on top, but I like a little extra moisture from the tomato sauce, so I put some of that on top, too.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Now it really looks good, right?

Just wait until it’s baked…

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Oh, and since I had a few extra shells I cut them into slices and covered them with extra sauce.  This went into the fridge and served as a simple lunch the next day.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

And:  the finished product.  Warm, gooey, cheesy, delicious!

Scoop it into your plate and enjoy it by itself or with some crusty bread and a salad.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

1 box (12 oz.) Jumbo Shell pasta (I used Barilla)
1 jar or can (15 to 28 oz.) tomato sauce
1 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
2 cups (8 oz.) mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cook the Jumbo Shells according to directions until they are al dente (about one minute less than the recommended time). Drain and set aside.

Squeeze all of the water from the thawed spinach.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mascarpone, half of the parmesan, half of the mozzarella, and the spices. Stir in the spinach.

In a 9 x 13 inch pan, generously cover the bottom with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with more spices if desired.

Fill each of the cooked shells with a scoop of the cheese filling. After you fill each shell, place it on top of the tomato sauce in the prepared pan.

Once you have filled all the shells and the pan is full, add a teaspoonful of tomato sauce to the top of each shell. Then sprinkle the remaining parmesan and mozzarella over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

[Note: If you can’t find mascarpone cheese, you can leave it out and increase the ricotta to 3 cups.]

*****

To print the free PDF, click here:  Spinach Stuffed Shells

Enjoy!

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Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

This is one of my go-to recipes when I want something easy to make that my kids will eat.

I know it may seem strange, but my girls have always eaten this, ever since they started on solid foods, and even though it has spinach in it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always served spinach, but my kids like it.  Of course, they like it best smothered in Alfredo sauce.

So I’m advocating this recipe as not only “easy,” but also “kid-friendly.”

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Anyway, the recipe can be altered to your tastes.  For example, I tend to change up which Alfredo sauce I buy.  Depends on what’s on sale.  :)

And I always make this after I’ve made chicken of some kind.  The chicken seen here is shredded chicken thighs that were “grilled” on the stove top the night before.  You can use white or dark meat, or both. Just make sure it’s seasoned.  Plain chicken is sooooo boring.  To me, at least.  So make your chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, or whatever you normally use.

I like to shred it by pulling it apart with my fingers (which is the fastest method I’ve found) the night that it’s cooked.  That way I can just pull the shredded meat out of the fridge when I’m ready to make this.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And when it comes to the spinach, I have no idea how much you would use if you’re using fresh.  I’ve always used frozen for this, because I always have frozen spinach on hand.

Here I used the steam-in-the-bag spinach from Target, because that’s what was the cheapest when I went shopping, but I usually stock up on the boxes (that are the same size:  10 oz.) when they’re on sale.

Either way, make sure you drain the spinach really, really well.  Spinach holds a lot of water and that water will make your dish far too soggy and keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

To drain the spinach, I usually press it into a mesh colander with a fork until no more water drips out.

And I suggest mixing in the spinach before stirring in the chicken or noodles, to make sure there are no dense clumps of spinach hiding in your finished meal.

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

And that photo is just a close up to show you what I used this time:  Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo.  But any type of Alfredo will work.  Could even make your own Parmesan white sauce instead.

Also, taste it before serving, because, if you’re like me, you may want to mix in a little extra pepper or garlic powder if your chicken wasn’t seasoned enough.  I like my spices to be noticeable.  :)

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Ingredients:

3 cups penne pasta
2 cups shredded chicken
10 oz. chopped frozen spinach
2 jars (16 oz. each) Alfredo Sauce (I used Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo)

Cook the pasta and the spinach (separately) according to the directions on the package.

Drain all water from the spinach, through a mesh colander or towel, or your sauce will be too wet.

Pour the sauce into a very large saucepan.  Stir in spinach, combining well.  Then stir in chicken and cooked pasta.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

*****

And here is the FREE printable PDF:  Easy Spinach Alfredo with Chicken

Or, you can Pin this photo:

Spinach Alfredo with Chicken Recipe

Enjoy!

And I’m curious:  do your kids like spinach?

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