Spinach Stuffed Shells with Bechamel and Marinara

shells up close 1

Do you ever run across a meal that you love so much and you can’t wait to eat the next day because you know it will just get better in the fridge over night?

Yes,  I am a pasta addict but I am not sure anyone on the earth could hate this meal.

shells line up close

              I should have titled it  “Un-hate-able stuffed pasta” That has a nice ring to it.

There are a several steps to this recipe but none are too complicated and it comes together faster than you would think.

shells cooks corner

If you are feeling antsy about all steps make sure you have everything you need in your corner before you get started.

Shells Raw Pasta

First you just cook the shells according to package instructions.

Shells Spinach Wring out

Your wring out spinach by defrosting and twisting in a kitchen towel.

Shells Stuffing

Create the stuffing. Stuffing the shells is fun too!

shells bechamel

There are two sauces on these shells. One is a quick homemade marinara and one is a creamy bechamel.  Two sauces you ask? Why yes. One for pretty color and the acidity of tomatoes and one for the velvety smooth meltiness that only a cream sauce can give to a pasta.

Shells with Sauce 1

Then you drizzle on the marinara.  As you can see, it makes a lot. Approximately 30 shells.

gage kitchen

Although this guy may have gotten a few of the shells before they were stuffed…..because he waited patiently.  He loves pasta too. He get it from his mama.

Shells with bechamel

Followed by the bechamel.

shells mozzarella

And followed up again by mozzarella cheese.

Bake it and prepare yourselves. This is good stuff. The best looking bechamel whisker I’ve ever met said “Honey, you’ve really outdone yourself with this meal”.

I think he is trying to flatter me. It’s working.

Shells done in pan

SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS WITH MARINARA AND BECHAMEL

a hungry apple original 

serves 6

Ingredients: 

12 oz box of jumbo pasta shells

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated (1-8 ounce block for total recipe,  4 for filling and 4 for topping)

parmesan cheese, grated

for marinara sauce:

1-14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes

1-8 ounce can tomato sauce

1 cup water with 1 beef bouillon cube (if cooking for a vegetarian, substitute 1 cup vegetable broth)

2 garlic cloves, minced or 2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon sea salt

10 grinds fresh pepper or 1 tsp pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

for shell stuffing:

2 lb container ricotta cheese (i used part skim but you could use whole if you like)

4 more ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

1-10 ounce frozen package of spinach, thawed and wrung of excess water

1 egg

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

10 grinds fresh pepper

for bechamel: 

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Freshly ground black pepper

generous grating  of nutmeg or pinch nutmeg powder

2 cups milk (i used 1%)

Instructions and directions:

Cook pasta shells al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile combine all marinara ingredients into a medium saucepan and let simmer on low.

In a large bowl, combine stuffing ingredients.

In a large casserole dish (9×13) or two small (8×8) sprayed with cooking spray, make a thin layer coating the bottom of the dish with marinara sauce. Stuff each shell with approximately 2-3 heaping tablespoons of filling and line in dish or dishes. When all shells are stuffed and lined, top with remaining marinara.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter for bechamel. When butter is melted whisk in flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add in milk and whisk constantly until smooth. Add pepper (about 5 grinds) and nutmeg. Whisk for 5 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Pour sauce over shells and marinara sauce.  Top with remaining 4 ounces mozzarella.

Bake on 350 for 25 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese.

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One thought on “Spinach Stuffed Shells with Bechamel and Marinara

  1. Ella says:

    Hello, I made this recipe last night and it was delicious! I used fresh baby spinach and sautéed it first with garlic, onions & Italian spices (I find frozen spinach tough & stringy). Anyway, I will certainly make this again, maybe adding diced chicken & roasted red peppers, or cooked shrimp & pancetta. A very versatile recipe ~ Thank you! (Dec 2015)

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