Friday, July 25, 2008

Shells Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach and Artichokes

Sometimes I surprise myself with how tasty some of my kitchen creations are. I don't just "make up" recipes very often; I usually use cookbooks or the internet and then add or change ingredients as I see fit.

That being said -- I don't know where I dreamed this recipe up, and I was surprised by how well it turned out. I think the idea for it started with the spinach artichoke dip I made a couple of weeks ago. I started thinking how good spinach and artichokes would be with pasta in a creamy cheesy sauce, but instead of just making a plain pasta dish, I decided to stuff some pasta shells. Hence, this creation.

I used a whole box of jumbo pasta shells and a large container of ricotta cheese, so I had a lot of both left over -- much more than just Joe and I could eat. I went ahead and made about half for us, then froze the other half for a future meal. I'll be interested to see how well they froze. (Incidentally, we loved this with sausage -- but ground chicken or turkey would probably be good in here too, and much more figure-friendly!)

Shells Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach and Artichokes
Source: Cassie

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 pound Italian sausage
1 large container ricotta cheese
1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups Italian-blend shredded cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions, just to al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

2. Brown sausage in a medium skillet; remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach and artichokes. Add cooled sausage to mixture.

4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in flour. Continue to stir and cook for one minute until flour is thoroughly combined. Add milk and cook until sauce begins to thicken. Add cheeses to sauce, along with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture and place in a greased baking dish. Pour sauce over stuffed shells. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in a 350° oven until sauce begins to bubble, about 30 to 45 minutes.