Spinach and Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells
Servings: 8 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground spicy Italian sausage
Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (such as San Marzano or Pomi)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 8-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
One 1-pound box jumbo pasta shells
16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus more for serving
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the crushed tomatoes, bell pepper, oregano, red-pepper flakes and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Taste and add more salt, pepper and red-pepper flakes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shells and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain well.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Gouda and basil. Transfer the mixture to a gallon-size zip-top bag. Push the mixture into one corner of the bag, squeeze the air out of the top of the bag, and snip about ½ inch off that corner.
4. Working with one at a time, pipe about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into each shell, then place them in the skillet. Sprinkle the shells evenly with mozzarella.
5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and is lightly browning on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil to serve. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
Note: If you’re feeding a vegetarian crowd or just prefer to go meatless, you can omit the sausage and simply add more crushed red-pepper flakes to taste.