Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stuffed Shells with Sausage & Mushrooms

These stuffed shells are a great twist from the traditional.  It will satisfy your tummy and your tongue.  Serve with a loaf of garlic bread and a tossed green salad.                      
Serves 6-8


1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells                    1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter                                      1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, stems discarded                12 ounces Italian sausage (sweet or hot),  
     and caps diced                                                          preferably without casing.
15 ounces (give or take) fresh ricotta cheese         1 (9-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed,
2 eggs, lightly beaten                                           or 6 cups loosely packed fresh spinach (opt)
1 teaspoon garlic powder                                    1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella sheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon onion powder                                 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesean cheese, divided
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves                                  or shredded hard goat cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves                              1 (26-28 ounce) jar marinara sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta shells al dente according to package instructions.
  3. Heat a medium skillet to medium heat.  Melt butter and add mushrooms.  Saute 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are golden brown.  Place ricotta in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.  when mushrooms are cooked, add to ricotta mixture and return empty skillet to stove top.
  4. Cook sausage in skillet (If cased, squeeze out).  Break up with a spatula while cooking until browned and crumbly.  Add sausage to ricotta mixture.
  5. If using thawed spinach, squeeze out extra moisture from spinach and roughly chop.  If using fresh spinach, roughly chop.  Add spinach to ricotta-meat mixture and fold together.  Ad 2 cups mozzarella and 1 cup Parmesan to mixture. Hint- Some kids may be picky of funny greens in their pasta, disguise it by adding the spinach to the marinara sauce instead and then pureeing it.
  6. Spread marinara sauce evenly on bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan.  Fill each pasta shell with 2 rounded tablespoons of filling and nestle snugly in the pan on top of the sauce.  You should be able to fill and fit in about 24-26 shells.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheeses.  Cover with foil and bake 50-60 minutes or until bubbly all over.  Remove foil about 10-15 minutes before end of baking time. 
Make-Ahead & Freezer Instructions: to prepare ahead of time, cover pan tightly in plastic and then in foil.  Refrigerate 1-2 days and then bake as directed (making sure to remove plastic layer underneath foil), or freeze up to two months.  Thaw frozen dish in refrigerator overnight and then bake as directed, or bake from frozen, covered in foil (remove plastic wrap), about two hours or until heated and bubbly throughout.  Cooking times vary from frozen so check periodically during cooking.

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