Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Pasta Shells
I read this interesting article in Bon Appétit about the restaurant that invented the spinach artichoke dip. It was about more than the dip, but what struck me was that someone invented spinach artichoke dip. i mean, of course they did. Spinach artichoke dip doesn't occur naturally, but it's so standard now that I don't even consider who invented it.
It reminded me of a funny story I heard from a guy who did advertising for Campbell's soup. Campbell's had a test lab that made recipes using their soups. They invented green bean casserole in their lab. Apparently, several people over the years have tried to sue Campbell's saying their grandma came up with the recipe, and they're like nope, sorry, we definitely made it up to sell cream of mushroom soup.
Anyways, about these stuffed pasta shells. I did not invent the spinach artichoke combo, but that should not dissuade you from making this delicious recipe.
So, I bought a copy of Bon Appétit at a grocery story yesterday and took it to my hair appointment today. I usually read the trashy celebrity gossip magazines when my highlights are 'setting', but I decided to read something slightly more substantial than Kardashian drama. I was, honestly, really impressed by Bon Appétit; I'm a regular subscriber to Cooking Light (I was introduced to by a lovely friend who gave me a year's worth of issues - gold mine!), but I just pick other magazines up here and there. I'd love to know if any of you have good magazine suggestions. I'm thinking of trying to get a few others monthly, to keep the food inspiration going.
I have this thing where I claim I need food inspiration for the blog and try to talk my husband into eating out at fun, new restaurants. I think he may have caught on... We actually really do like to eat out. We are the nerds who say things like, "Do you think this dish could have used slightly more fennel?" Must be tough being a full-time chef; everyone's a critic.
I actually keep a little inspiration journal with me at all times. If someone's had a great meal, I ask them to tell me about it. Or if I have some brainstorm idea I write it down, which usually happens when I'm hungry. I actually really do love talking food with people. Most people get so excited about it, and most are eager to share about what they like. When I tell people I have a food blog, the first question is always where they can find something (example - which grocery stores have red quinoa). I feel like that a map of red quinoa locations might be an even better service than a recipe blog!
So, here's the thing about these shells - my shells were very easy to break. Make sure to make more than you need, in case a few tear apart. Otherwise, you should find this recipe straightforward. Don't be put off by the total time - you're hands-off for at least 30 minutes of cook time. Or in my case, just enough time to watch a House Hunters International.
Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Pasta Shells
Makes 4 servings (4 shells each) | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Total Time: 50 minutes
8 cups water
Large uncooked pasta shells (at least 16)*
2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups baby spinach
1 (16 ounce or 460 gram) can artichokes in water, drained
9 ounces (250 grams) ricotta cheese
1 (16 ounce or 460 gram) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
optional - basil leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
Bring the water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add the pasta shells and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Boil, following package directions till al dente (6 minutes for my shells). Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan. When oil is hot, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the spinach to the onions and sauté till spinach is wilted (about one minute).
Add the spinach onion mixture, artichokes, and ricotta to a food processor and pulse till all ingredients are combined. Avoid making it a paste - keep ingredients chunky.
Pour the diced tomatoes into an 11"x7" pan (or other baking pan). Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and stir to combine.
Stuff each shell with 2 tablespoons of spinach artichoke mixture and nestle them into the tomato layer in the pan. Fill at least 16 shells.
Sprinkle half the parmesan cheese on top of the shells.
Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil, raise the temperature to 425 F (220 C) and bake for another 10 minutes to crisp the top of the shells.
Remove from oven and sprinkle the rest of the parmesan cheese on top. Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerator up to two days.
Garnish with basil leaves before serving.
*Make more than 16, in case a few break.
This recipe was inspired by this fabulous spinach artichoke lasagna from Cookie & Kate.