Discover the four cheeses, basil and hint of nutmeg in these tasty vegetarian Stuffed Cheese Spinach Pasta Shells, smothered in Marinara sauce. Mmmm.
My friend Cathy made pasta shells recently and tempted me by sending some pictures and the recipe. I couldn’t resist the beautiful colours and decided to give the recipe a whirl. In my obsessive research fashion, I checked out half a dozen similar recipes which were all – ah – similar. The only real differences were in the proportions of filling ingredients, some used an egg and some topped the shells with Mozzarella. Cathy’s recipe from an old Food and Wine cookbook used a lot of goat cheese, breadcrumbs and jalapeno pepper in the sauce.
I ended up blending recipes from Food and Wine, Serious Eats, Eating Well and Fork Knife Spoon based on my own tastes and any tips the authors had to share. I served it recently to the vegetarians at a family dinner party. Very well received – phew.
I’m not a huge cheese fan, but I found the blend of cheeses with the spinach, garlic, basil and nutmeg to be a great combination. Try to get the best ricotta you can – creamier, less grainy. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, the recipe for homemade ricotta from Smitten Kitchen comes well recommended with minimal hands on time.
All in all, this is a solid make-ahead vegetarian pasta dish that is sure to please the family or guests. And the bold red and green colours, as I said, are great! Hey, maybe a good dish for the vegetarians at the Christmas dinner table?
- Needless to say, you can save time by using a great store-bought Marinara sauce like White Linen from Costco. The total time will then take about 45 minutes, most of that baking time.
Tailor To Your Tastes
- You can use fresh spinach instead of frozen. Wilt it in the microwave for a minute, chop and squeeze dry in paper towels.
- Vary the proportion of cheeses e.g. more goat cheese, less ricotta, more Parmesan, etc.
- Vary the heat/spice in the sauce. Kick it up with more chili flakes or a seeded, chopped jalapeno pepper.
- Use your own favourite Marinara sauce.
- Prepare the whole dish, cover and refrigerate for a day or two. When ready to use, follow baking instructions, but add 10-15 minutes to covered baking portion.