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Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells


This was not supposed to be my next post. These spinach and cheese stuffed shells, they were supposed to be chocolate graham cracker cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting. That's what I wanted to share with you guys. Really, really bad. I made them spontaneously for a friend of mine, and they came out SO perfect that I was like, STOP EVERYTHING, these cupcakes have to go on the blog!

But then something horrible happened. I made the mistake of not taking pictures of them before I took them to that friend of mine. And then I made another mistake by not frosting the extra cupcakes immediately and letting the marshmallow frosting deflate. And if that wasn't bad enough, I tried to make another batch of frosting the next day and it was a complete failure. I'm a believer of fate, so I'm gonna go ahead and say it wasn't meant to be. But still, I don't handle failure very well.

Soon after I realized that my second batch of frosting was not going to hold up on any cupcakes, I aggressively threw some bowls into the sink, shouted at the phone that was ringing that I didn't want to talk to anyone, and then stomped up to my room and slammed the door. I'm really mature, as you can tell. When I finally calmed down, I cried about it. Then I laughed about it. And a few days later, when I was finally up to being in my kitchen again, I made stuffed shells.


There's nothing like some good ol' carbs to soothe the soul. Ever since I first made stuffed shells three years ago, I've been obsessed with them. The kind of obsessed where I could happily eat their leftovers for a week. After making them so many times using recipes from the Internet or friends, I finally realized that I could easily just create my own recipe and tweak it to my liking. Stuffed shells are very tweak-able. That's how these shells were born.


I tasted and adjusted and tasted and added, just like Christine from MasterChef. And the final result was nothing short of amazing. Yes, I'm bragging a little. My brother says that I'll never say that anything I make tastes bad which is so far from the truth. I have definitely shared my failures on here with you guys. This is certainly not one of them though.


This is as good as good gets. This is fresh spinach, loaded with three kinds of cheese, seasoned with fresh basil, oregano, parsley flakes, nutmeg, all that good stuff. This is a pool of hearty marinara sauce and flavors melding with one another. This is melted mozzarella cheese in every bite. This is the kind of meal that makes you forget all your troubles, and especially all your baking failures. What cupcakes?

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

Yield: 20 jumbo shells
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Ingredients:

10 oz. fresh spinach
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced 
15 oz. ricotta cheese
3 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
One 24 oz. jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, for sprinkling
20 jumbo pasta shells

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta shells and cook according to package directions, or your preference.

Rinse spinach and leave it wet. Place wet spinach in a saucepan, cover, and heat on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until spinach has cooked down and wilted. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add spinach and stir to coat. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes

Transfer spinach to a large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, parsley flakes, nutmeg, salt, peppers, and egg. Stir well to combine.

Spread some marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with a large spoonful of the spinach mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Arrange the shells, seam side up in the baking dish. Pour remaining marinara sauce over the shells. Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then, uncover and bake for 5-10 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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