Stuffed Spinach and Ricotta Pasta shells in Tomato and chilli sauce

Stuffed Spinach and Ricotta Pasta shells in Tomato and chilli sauce

I love treating friends. And most of them know my love for cooking, so its almost taken for granted that I will be producing something nice and mostly unique. Now when you have vegetarian friends then you have to really think harder for options that are wholesome and at the same time are not just salads. Recently I had two of my ex colleagues and good friends at my place for drinks and dinner and both are vegetarians. So after a lot of deliberation I decided to go for a fancy pasta dish, which led me to make this Stuffed spinach and ricotta pasta in tomato and chilli sauce. I accompanied this with a crackling Pan toasted Gnocchi salad.

It was a working day and I knew I would not be able to head to the kitchen before 5pm. So I used some shortcuts, like getting the pasta sauce from the supermarket. You can also make your own from scratch. Overall this dish is super easy, doesn’t take too much time, other than assembling it together. The result is lots of praise and wow and woww…

So lets dive in!

Ingredients

  • Pasta shell pack(Conchiglioni). I counted 5 shells per person and worked the number of shells I wanted to boil. Add 2-3 more as some of them break. So for my dish it was a total of 20 shells
  • 250 gms Ricotta cheese
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic finely diced
  • 1 tsp of red chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Handful of toasted broken pecan and raisins (optional only. If you like to add to your stuffing or you can totally omit them)
  • Tomato and chilli pasta sauce. I used store bought one. You can make yours or buy one from a supermarket

Method

  • Boil pasta as per instructions. Its very important you do not overcook, rather leave it quite al dente as it will be cooked in the baking process later. Drain the pasta and separate the shells in a large tray and let them cool and dry.
  • In a large pan or skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add chilli flakes and garlic. Toss around for a min and add the onions. Do not let the garlic burn or brown
  • Once the onions is translucent, add paprika. Now add the spinach and let it wilt and combine with the onions. Let the moisture evaporate, the spinach will reduce and mix with the onion mixture.
  • Now add ricotta cheese and mix it all well. Reduce the heat and combine it, add salt and pepper. Add nuts and raisins if you are using them. Cook it all together for few minutes and then keep the mixture aside to cool.
  • Set the oven to 200 C for 10 minutes
  • Start stuffing the pasta shells with the spinach and ricotta mixture. Do not over stuff. Just level it up.
  • In an ovenproof dish or casserole, spread a layer of pasta sauce. Place the stuffed pasta shells. Repeat another layer if required. For my size of dish I did roughly two layers.
  • Add cheese in crevices, on sides and some on the pasta and sauce.
  • Place it in the oven for about 20 minutes
  • Once done remove and allow it to cool. Garnish with torn basil leaves.
  • Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe Variations

You can get creative with the stuffings. Anything of your choice. If you want a meaty version then use beef/pork mince or even sausage meat can be a great substitute. For an Indian version (and yes i love this one) you can use cottage cheese (paneer). There can be more vegetarian options like using mushrooms and peas too. Well as I mentioned do not limit your creativity.

For making it more cheese you can even use cheddar in the stuffing. Great if you are making for kids.

Final thoughts…

This is a show stopper dish which can be made really quick. All you need are the ingredients to be by your side. There is really no harm in buying store bought sauce or any other ingredient which can speed your cooking time. We are all busy and any dish that be dished out from store cupboard ingredients is so helpful.

I would love to hear your feedback if you try this out.

If you like to try some more pasta bakes, check out the below recipes. Until next time, eat healthy!

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