by Susan Hanna
This stuffed shell pasta dish from Half Baked Harvest’s Super Simple cookbook is hands-down one of the best baked pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten. Make a rich sauce with sausage, tomatoes, red pepper, spices and chopped spinach. Meanwhile, cook the pasta shells until al dente. Combine ricotta and Gouda cheeses with basil and spoon or pipe the mixture into the cooked pasta shells. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the sauce, top with mozzarella and bake for about 30 minutes. Top with fresh basil and serve. Cook’s notes: I had some cooked pasta shells left over. I spooned the cheese filling into the shells instead of piping. Be sure to squeeze as much water as you can from the thawed chopped spinach. I used pizza mozzarella instead of fresh and it worked well.
Serves 6 to 8.
Avoiding Additives and Preservatives
I used Free From hot Italian sausages, Unico tomatoes, Tre Stelle ricotta, No Name pizza mozzarella and No Name frozen chopped spinach. Check the spices to make sure they don’t contain colour or anti-caking agents and look for Gouda with no artificial ingredients or colour added. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb (454 g) ground spicy Italian sausage
- 2 28-oz (796 ml) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 2 tsp (10 ml) dried oregano
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes (plus more as needed)
- 1 8-oz (227 g) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 1-lb (454 g) box dried jumbo pasta shells
- 16 oz (454 g) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 cups (500 ml) shredded Gouda cheese
- 1 cup (250 ml) fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus more for serving)
- 8 oz (227 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, torn
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
- Heat 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 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.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shells and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Gouda, and basil. Transfer the mix to a large zip-top bag. Push the mixture into one corner of the bag, squeeze the air out of the top, and snip about ½ inch (1.25-cm) off that corner.
- Working with one at a time, pipe about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the cheese mixture into each shell (or just spoon the filling into the shells), then place them in the skillet. Sprinkle the shells evenly with mozzarella.
- 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.
From Super Simple by Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan Gerard