Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Roasted Squash Sauce

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Spinach and ricotta again! As a person living on my own (although that is about to change! Details forthcoming), oft-times the ingredients for one recipe hold over for another. As was the case here—I only used about half the ricotta I bought for the spinach-ricotta dumplings, and I can’t resist buying more spinach anyway, because it is so sweet and delicious and GREEN this time of year. Refreshing. (Side note: ricotta is actually very easy to make yourself. All you need is milk, lemon juice or vinegar, a little heat, time, and a cheesecloth! Read more from The Kitchn.)

As I build up my repertoire here, I’d like to feature more recipes with similar ingredients, or weekly menu suggestions as a colleague suggested once. It’ll be easier when I’m more than a year old (!).

I’ve mentioned before that I often make a big batch of something at the beginning of the week and then eat it for lunch the rest of the week. This works well for time, but one does get tired of a single dish forever. One of my coworkers was complaining of a similar quandary today, and we may start doing Wednesday office lunch trading, which I think is rather a marvelous idea! Basically, trading lunch on Wednesday, when we’re sick of Day 3 of the same thing. We’ll have to restrict membership to the people who actually cook though. I’ll let you know if it comes to fruition.

Not that I would actually want to share this if I brought it to the office with me.

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Food-related shareables (I hope you like these)! Americans seem to be getting better eating habits (yay). But mostly we are trying to solve our cultivation problems with the typical solution, tech (tip: for articles you can’t read completely, sometimes googling the title then clicking on the link helps). I am excited about the possibilities but remain skeptical. What about using drones to plant trees? Actually, that sounds pretty neat. I do love trees, and somehow the mission seems more conscientious.

So, recipe. This was inspired by giant shells in the pasta section of the co-op a short while ago. I’d been thinking about ravioli but I don’t have a pasta machine (yet), which makes ravioli construction much more difficult; giant shells are a worthy substitute. Evidently, I also had ricotta and spinach, which makes a lovely filling (as has been discussed), and continue to have winter squash to use. I’d been dreaming about squash pasta sauce, perused a few recipes (this one is quite similar, and also has links to more seasonal recipes), and determined that really you don’t need much more than puréed squash to make a good sauce. Turns out it’s true; this dish is pretty spectacular—definitely dinner party material (and secretly easily made in fairly large quantities). Make sure to get some garnish materials if you want to make it look fancy—little accents make all the difference.

Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells with roasted squash sauce
Sauce: 
1 small squash (butternut, jester, whatever you have left!)
1 onion
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Pasta water!
Stock, milk, or cream (optional)
Rosemary or sage

Pasta filling (ratios can be adjusted at will):
Jumbo pasta shells (cook more than you want, since some will break
3/4 lb spinach, washed (kale also works)
3-4 cloves garlic (or to taste, I really like garlic)
3/4 cup ricotta
1 egg
1 cup shredded parmesan (or similar cheese)
Salt and pepper

Garnish (worth it even just for you):
Olive oil
Sage leaves
Fresh pepper

Roast the squash first: cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and put in the oven in a pan with some oil or butter under high heat for a long while (50 minutes?) until soft. Chop and roast the onions on the side of the pan.

Boil and salt water and cook the shells until al dente, slightly firm still but soft. Reserve some of the pasta water! This is to make the sauce: Purée the squash meat with onions, pasta water, and a little stock or cream if you like (yogurt would also work, which is what I generally keep around). Add a little rosemary or sage and season as you see fit.

For the filling (can be assembled as pasta is cooking if you like): Sauté the garlic in oil until slightly soft. Add spinach until wilted and most of the moisture is gone. In a bowl, mix ricotta, egg, most of the parmesan (reserve some to put on top), then squeezed (moisture-free) spinach/garlic.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put squash sauce in the bottom of a pan (about 3/4 inch), then stuff each pasta shell with a little filling and tuck them in the sauce. Top with remaining parmesan, and bake for 30-40 minutes. It may benefit from covering with foil in the first part, so it doesn’t get dried out—then uncover and let the cheese on top become golden.

Garnish: heat oil in a pan, and when hot add sage leaves. Fry, flipping once, until lightly crispy.

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Place shells on plate, add a little extra sauce if necessary, and place fried sage leaves on top. Sprinkle with a little more fresh parmesan and some fresh ground pepper.

I mentioned at the beginning that I will soon be moving (in about a month)! But worry not, I shall remain in midcoast Maine and will continue to get a CSA and be cooking just as much. Maybe more, since I’ll have a roommate to cook for/with! And some more kitchen gadgets. If I start cooking more frequently for two or more people, some things may begin to change on this blog, as it has heretofore been largely an exploration of single-person cooking (although admittedly fairly often with guests to help cook or at least taste). However, I don’t envision it transforming significantly. You may notice some new backgrounds in my pictures though!

Cheers.

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2 thoughts on “Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Roasted Squash Sauce

  1. Shan

    The oil in which you fry sage may pick up some sagacity. Could be useful for the next thing.

    Sagacity in this case is poetic license for oil extraction of aromatics from the sage, just to be clear. And chemists aren’t poets, obviously.

    Daddo

    ∞ iPad

    >

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