Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sausage, Spinach and Cheese-Stuffed Shells

  • 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 16-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 10-ounce box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 32-ounce jar pasta sauce (4 cups)

If serving immediately, heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no traces of pink remain, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl lightly beat the egg. Add the ricotta, spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, dried basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and the reserved sausage mixture.

Spread 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of each of two 9-inch-by-13-inch or similarly sized shallow baking dishes. Fill each of the reserved shells with the sausage and ricotta filling.

Arrange half of the shells in each of the baking dishes, then spread half of the remaining pasta sauce over each dish of shells. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.

Uncover and sprinkle each dish with 1/4 cup of the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Alternatively, one or both baking dishes can be frozen for up to 4 months. The dishes should be covered tightly with foil and plastic wrap before freezing. When ready to serve, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap (leaving the foil) and bake directly from the freezer for 1 hour, or until hot and bubbling. Uncover and sprinkle each dish with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes.

From and tested by the Associated Press. 523 calories (40% from fat), 23 grams fat (8 grams sat. fat), 54 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 1,562 mg sodium, 69 mg cholesterol, 383 mg calcium, 6 grams fiber.

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 40 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

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