Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Jun 3rd

You know that generally, when I cook or bake, I enjoy simplicity. Fewer ingredients means it’s quicker and easier overall. That being said, basic lasagna/manicotti/stuffed shells just screams for some jazzing up. I’m speaking nutritionally here, since obviously cheese, pasta, and tomato sauce is outrageously perfect just as it is. 

When I got the hankering for a baked pasta dish I opted for shells over manicotti. Why? Shells are way easier to fill. Next, I wanted to add some protein to the dish itself because heck no was I making meatballs or sausage on the side for a weeknight dinner that was taking more time than I usually set aside. Italian-style chicken sausage saved loads of fat and calories and since the pieces were diced and browned, you couldn’t even tell it was chicken instead of pork. Adding a veggie to the filling was a must and spinach was the obvious choice; unobtrusive taste for massive amount of nutrients and all it took for prep was the microwave.

It came together quicker than I thought (I swear – I would tell you if this was a company only dish) and my husband gave me one of those, “this is REALLY good” responses that I just adore. Tess, on the other hand, (and during prayer no less) declared that “I not eat that”. I reminded her that if she doesn’t want whats in front of her then she doesn’t have to eat dinner at all; she opted to try the shells. Girlfriend cleaned her plate!

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Serves 6-8

16 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

12 oz. Italian-style chicken sausage links, finely diced

1 box pasta shells

1 tbsp. salt

2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 c. marinara sauce

8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated

1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

1. In a large, nonstick skillet, brown diced sausage until golden brown. Add spinach and stir to combine. Store, covered with plastic in the refrigerator, up to 1 day (or reserve on the counter for immediate use).

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2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add shells and 1 tbsp. salt. Stir and then cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled enough to handle.

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3. Meanwhile, add ricotta, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper to spinach mixture and stir to combine.

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4. Spread about 1 c. marinara in bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (or two 8×8 pans, if planning to freeze one).

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5. Fill shells with spinach/ricotta mixture and lay, filling side up, in prepared dish.

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6. Top with remaining sauce and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. You’ll see I added some grated parmesan to the top as well – you can feel free to do this but its not absolutely necessary. 

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7. If freezing, cover with plastic wrap then foil. If eating now, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake shells in preheated oven, uncovered, for about 35 minutes.

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8. Serve, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil.

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