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Spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta shells

I’m trying not to overwhelm this blog with too many pasta dishes, but this is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for ages – what could be better than pasta, spinach, cheese and tomato sauce? It’s like all my favourite things smooshed together. ‘Smooshed’ is quite a fitting word for this recipe – it may not be the prettiest dish I’ve ever made, but it was really tasty.
I really enjoyed using these pasta shells – they give the same effect as cannelloni, but are a lot easier to stuff. I remember making cannelloni one year in school, and spending ages trying to push the filling down the narrow tube with a spoon that didn’t fit. This was definitely a lot easier!
I can’t wait to use these shells again, but I’ll probably experiment with a new filling next time. I love spinach and ricotta together, but it’s nice to try new things occasionally!

Spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta shells
Serves 3

200g large pasta shells (conchiglioni)
250g ricotta cheese
180g spinach
100g cheddar cheese
3tbsp vegetarian parmesan cheese, finely grated
1tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1tbsp sugar
400g chopped tomatoes or passata
1tsp mixed herbs
Boil the pasta shells according to the instructions on the packet, then drain and set aside to cool.
In a large pan, heat the oil and gently soften the onion and garlic. Add the sugar and continue to cook for a few minutes longer. Pour in the tomatoes or passata and the mixed herbs. Leave to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Lay out the spinach on a plate and microwave on full for 1 minute, or until wilted. Chop it roughly. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, wilted spinach, parmesan, nutmeg, egg, and half of the cheddar. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas Mark 6 / 400°F).

In a large baking dish, pour in one large spoonful of the tomato sauce (just enough to cover the bottom of the dish). Stuff each pasta shell with the ricotta mixture, and lay in rows in the dish. If you have any leftover filling, just dot it around the shells. Top with the rest of the sauce and the remaining cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned.
Tarka Dal
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