Spinach Stuffed Shells with Two Sauces

Spinach Stuffed Shells with Two SaucesDeep Freeze

Things have taken a turn for the worse. I try hard to make sure my family is eating real food on a daily basis, but last week was a failure of epic proportions. My sister was in a similar situation.

This is why I found myself in her kitchen on Saturday, preparing numerous dishes for us to split between us, and store in our freezers for future use.

This is a big step for me. I have a love-hate relationship with my freezer. I like the idea of having things on hand to thaw for easy use. In practice, I end up with a lot of freezer burned meats. I figure it’s better to have ready-made meals in need of re-warming.

I gotta say I’m pretty excited. More excited for some things than others… (Like the white chicken chili that is a favorite of my Nephew’s. We’ll have that tomorrow night with cornbread.)

The recipe I’m most excited about is Spinach Stuffed Shells with Two Sauces.

Nothing better after a long hard day than a comforting plate of cheesy, pasta goodness. Pull it out the night before to thaw in the fridge, and pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Pair it with a salad and badda bing badda boom…you got yourself a lovely dinner without breaking a sweat. Can I get an Amen?

Spinach Stuffed Shells with Two Sauces
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
For variations on this theme, you can replace the shells with Manicotti, and also use just one sauce.

For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
10 ounce bag pre-washed baby spinach

For the white sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
30 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg

For the casserole
1 24 ounce jar of marinara sauce (we highly recommend Mia’s Kitchen Bistro Marinara)
12 ounces Jumbo Pasta Shells (about 25 To 30 Shells) cooked until a little firmer than al dente

Make the filling
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion starts to soften (about 4 minutes). Add the spinach, and cook (stirring continuously) until it starts to wilt.

Remove the spinach from the skillet, allow it to cool slightly, and them place it between several paper towels to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Chop, and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, the remainder of the basil and parsley, and salt and pepper to taste until combined. Stir in the chopped spinach mixture.

Make the white sauce
Place the skillet back on medium-low, melt the butter, and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk them together to make a roux, and cook it for just a minute or two. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously so no lumps form.

Stirring all the while, allow the sauce to cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Turn off the heat, and stir in half the basil, half the parsley, the salt and pepper to taste. Add a splash of milk if the white sauce is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Assemble the shells
Use a spoon to fill the pasta shells with the cheese mixture.

Pour just enough of the marinara sauce into a 9 x 13 casserole dish to coat the bottom, and spread evenly. Place the shells seam side down in the dish, and pour marinara evenly over the shells.

Next ladle the white sauce over the marinara in a zig-zag design. Finally, sprinkle with more Parmesan.

Bake it in a preheated 375º F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

To freeze
Wrap heavy foil around the entire casserole dish, and freeze for up to 6 months.

To bake the frozen casserole, thaw the pan in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, then bake as directed.

Or you can place it in a 375º F oven for about 1 1/2 hours (check that it is heated through), then uncover and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes.

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