Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meatlovers Stuffed Shells Pasta


This Meatlovers Stuffed Shells Pasta is full of lean ground beef, Italian sausage and pepperoni for that meat lover in your life. The shells are stuffed with a ricotta cheese and spinach filling that compliments the sauce deliciously. 

This is one of my family's favorite meals.  It's always requested when we celebrate any special occasion like a birthday or holiday.  I made this for our Christmas Eve dinner and then again recently to celebrate my husband's birthday.    This time around I really made it "Meatlover" friendly by adding three types of meat into the sauce. 

I really love making stuffed shells.  It only takes 5 minutes to stuff the shells and my kids get to help stuff them so it's a good family cooking activity as well.  

This dish was not only for the men in my life; my daughter was right there with my husband and son diving into this "manly" dish!  So, if you have a hungry crowd to feed, think "Meatlovers"!

Meatlovers Stuffed Shells Pasta
Recipe by Ramona from Kitchen Simmer


Meat Sauce:
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound Italian sausage
8oz pepperoni slices chopped
1 large onion chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)

3 tsp granulated garlic (divided)
2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
2 tsp dried basil
1-2 tsp brown sugar (to taste)
1 jar favorite pasta sauce (45oz bottle)

1 cup reserved pasta  

Spinach Ricotta Stuffing:
8oz frozen spinach (defrosted & wrung dry)
32 oz tub of Ricotta cheese (regular or low fat)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/8 of a teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

1lb box of large size pasta shells
 8oz of shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1:  Boil pasta shells in well salted water until 80% cooked.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water.  Drain pasta shells and allow to cool so they can be stuffed.  Separate any shells that have doubled inside one another.  
Step 2:  Brown beef and sausage in a large pot. Season with salt and black pepper and 1 tsp garlic powder.  Then add the chopped pepperoni and onion and brown for 2 minutes.   

Next add the jar pasta sauce and season with 2 tsp garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, chili flakes and brown sugar.  Use the reserved pasta water to rinse out jar of sauce then place sauce on a low simmer and cover with a lid to cook for 20 minutes.  

Step 3:  Defrost frozen spinach and wring dry in a clean kitchen towel.  Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and nutmeg.  Then add the ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese.   

Note: You can defrost spinach in microwave.
Step 4: Place a layer of  sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish.  Then stuff each pasta shell with 2-3 large spoonfuls of spinach ricotta filling and lay on top of sauce.  

Once all shells have been stuffed, place remaining sauce on top of all the shells.  If there is extra sauce, leave it to serve at the table for those that like extra sauce.

Step 5:  Finally add the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Cover casserole with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes uncovered.  Serve hot.  Enjoy.  

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