Sausage And Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe

While spinach features prominently in the name, we're guessing that's not what you'll be thinking about when you sink your teeth into these jumbo pasta shells put together by certified nutritionist and recipe developer Hayley MacLean of Instagram's @HappyHealthyHayley. Stuffed with crumbled sausage and three different Italian cheeses — and, oh yeah, spinach — before being smothered in a garlic cream sauce, they're sure to satisfy all your comfort food cravings. 

"These stuffed shells are so creamy and delicious!" MacLean tells Tasting Table, adding that they're simple to make, too. "The most important thing to remember is not to over-boil your shells," she says. If you're used to cooking your pasta to al dente, or until it's nice and soft, you'll want to hold back for this recipe. The shells are meant to be parboiled — just barely softened before they're removed from the hot water. This makes them easy to stuff and prevents over-cooking when they're baked at the end of the recipe. 

Gather your ingredients for sausage and spinach stuffed shells

To make MacLean's recipe for sausage and spinach stuffed shells, you'll need the ingredients for the filling and the sauce, as well as the jumbo shell pasta required for assembly. For the filling, you'll need 1 pound of mild or hot Italian sausage (with the casing removed), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 medium yellow onion, and 4 cloves of garlic, along with 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix, plus ½ teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon  black pepper, and 1, 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach. Although, you'll want the spinach fully thawed and drained, which you can accomplish by squeezing it between paper towels over the kitchen sink. 

For the-garlic cream sauce, you'll need 2 cups heavy cream. 4 more cloves of garlic, ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. And if you're so inclined, you can add ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves for the garnish, although this is completely optional.

Parboil your pasta

The first step is cooking the pasta so the shells will be cool enough to handle by the time you're done with the rest of the prep work. As noted above, you'll want to parboil the shells, which is to say, cooking them just enough to make it possible to fill them. The rest of the cooking happens in the oven. 

Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Then, add the jumbo shell pasta, and let the water return to a boil. Lower the heat, and let the shells simmer for whatever time it says on the box, minus 3 minutes. The end result is meant to be al dente, but pliable enough to fill. Rinse the cooked shells gently under cool water, drain, and set aside. Finally, preheat your oven to 350 F, grease a large baking dish with cooking spray, and move on to the next step.

Brown the sausage with onions and garlic

Now that the shells are all set, it's time to prep the sausage filling. Start by heating your olive oil in a large skillet, with the heat source set to medium. Add the onion and cook until it's translucent. This should take about 5 minutes. Then, add the minced garlic and continue cooking for another minute, until it's fragrant. Finally, add the sausage, and stir until browned. Strain off the excess fat, and set the mixture aside to cool. It should take about 10 minutes, so in the meantime, you can feel free to move on to the next step.

Prepare your sausage and spinach filling

Now that the sausage is browned with the onions and garlic, it'll be ready to be incorporated into the sausage and spinach filling. Let's do that now. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, shredded mozzarella, ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning, basil, and salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach (first being sure to squeeze all the water out of it). Finally, add the cooled sausage mixture and set your completed filling aside.

Stir the ingredients for the garlic cream sauce

The last element is to whip up the garlic cream sauce, which, as noted above, serves as the sauce that unifies and pulls this entire dish together. Add the cream and the four smashed garlic cloves to a small saucepan and heat them over medium-low heat until simmering, stirring occasionally. Once simmering, add the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce to low and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stuff and assemble your pasta shells and bake

Spoon the spinach and sausage mixture into the parboiled shells, and arrange them face-up in the baking dish. If there's any filling leftover, spoon it between the shells. Remove the large garlic pieces from the garlic-cream sauce and pour the sauce evenly over the stuffed shells. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley.

Sausage And Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe
5 from 38 ratings
This recipe for sausage and spinach stuffed shells will hit the spot when you're craving a hearty meal of comfort food. Make a batch tonight.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
1
hour
Servings
6
Servings
baked stuffed shells in pan
Total time: 1.25 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 12-ounce box jumbo shell pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mild or hot Italian sausage, uncased
  • 32 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Ingredients
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the jumbo shell pasta. Cook until the pasta is just pliable enough for filling, but no more. Rinse under cool water and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue cooking for another minute, until fragrant. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned. Remove any excess fat and set the mixture aside to cool, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, shredded mozzarella, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning, basil, and measured salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach. Add the cooled Italian sausage mixture and set aside.
  5. Add the cream and smashed garlic to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low until simmering, stirring occasionally. Once simmering, add the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat.
  6. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the par-cooked shells, and arrange face-up in the baking dish. If there's any filling leftover, spoon it between the shells.
  7. Remove the large garlic pieces from the garlic-cream sauce and pour the sauce over the stuffed shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbly.
  8. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley, if desired.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 1,336
Total Fat 91.1 g
Saturated Fat 48.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 338.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 71.4 g
Dietary Fiber 4.5 g
Total Sugars 6.2 g
Sodium 1,316.4 mg
Protein 58.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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