Sausage, ricotta, and spinach stuffed shells

Remember all that lovely ricotta I taught you to make last week? If you missed it go here and check it out. This recipe is best made with your own yummy homemade ricotta. Add a little extra salt to the milk as it is heating up as you will be using it in a savory recipe. I would say 1 to 1 1/2 tsp.

This was a tasty Sunday night dinner I lovingly made for my sister and brother-in-law. I threw this together on the fly so I hope I have remembered everything I did. It was oh so very good and made excellent leftovers.

Sausage, ricotta and spinach stuffed shells (serves five to six depending on how hungry the boys are)

25 jumbo shells (this is more than you need but I always make extra to account for broken shells)
1 lb package of Italian sausage (mild or hot your choice)
3 cups baby spinach
1 recipe homemade ricotta or roughly 4 cups ricotta
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
fresh ground black pepper
fresh ground nutmeg (don’t argue with me on this one. Get a whole nutmeg and a microplane. The powdered stuff is yucky)

Pasta: Cook the shells according to the package. Make sure the water is plenty salty. Drain, rinse.

Prep for Sausage, Ricotta, and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Filling: Meanwhile brown the sausage over medium high heat in a large pan. Break it up in to little pieces as it cooks. Drain the oil. Put in a large bowl. Return the dirty pan to stove over low heat. Throw in the spinach, toss to coat with the leftover oil. Cover and leave over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Once completely wilted add to the same bowl as the sausage. Mix the sausage, half the ricotta, spinach, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp garlic powder, and some fresh ground pepper in a large bowl.

The Roux for the Stuffed Shells

Sauce: In a large sauce pan (or the pot you boiled the noodles in or the pan you made the sausage in if you want to dirty fewer pots) melt the butter over medium high heat. Once completely melted add all the flour and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the milk a little at a time whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Once the sauce reaches a batter like consistency you can add the rest of the milk- all while continually whisking. Add 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, about 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a few grinds of black pepper. Allow to boil and as it does it will thicken. Remove from heat and mix in the rest of the ricotta. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Placing The Stuffed Shells

Sausage, Ricotta, and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Assemble: Preheat oven to 350. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the sauce and pour the rest in the bottom of a large baking dish. Take a shell, scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling in to the shell, then nest it in to the sauce seam side up. Repeat till you are out of shells, filling, or both. Dollop a spoonful of the reserved sauce over each shell. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn on broiler, move dish under broiler, and let brown for 2-3 minutes.


Ps. There is still plenty of time to enter my giveaway for a bag of teff. Go here to see how to enter (and learn what the heck teff is).

Sausage, Ricotta, and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Teff polenta (new ingredient and my first giveaway!)

On my list of 30 things to accomplish before I am 30 number 23 is use 23 new ingredients. Alton Brown did an episode of Good Eats a while back where he remarked that the average American home cook has a repertoire of 100 ingredients from which they rarely stray. I have made it my mission to bring new things in my kitchen and decided my 30 by 30 list was a great place to include this challenge.

So far I have used coconut oil, paste food coloring (I know that might be a stretch), dried garbanzo beans, quinoa, rutabaga, sucanat, and now teff.  I love using new ingredients and have been working on trying new things since I saw that episode. I expand my cooking skills and often, as is the case with teff, fall in love with something I would have otherwise never eaten. Often I find these new ingredients at the local Farmer’s Market.

Teff Polenta Fixings

I escaped to the Farmer’s Market recently without Little or Nathan. Alone! Bliss! I could peruse at my pleasure! I bought some produce for the week and some hazelnuts as a treat. Lastly I swung by Camas Country Mill’s  stand- a stop I ALWAYS make. They are the mill on a third generation farm here in the Willamette Valley. Local, delicious, friendly. I love all their products and love when they have something new for me to try. This Saturday they were sampling teff. They used the grain to make a polenta and the flour to make a brownie. Both were amazing. Best part is the Camas Country Mill folks had a printed recipe on hand. Did I mention I love theses people? I bought a bag and knew we would be having the polenta for dinner.

Since making this recipe I did some background research on this amazing grain. Ok, to be honest I have read the wikipedia page on Eragrostis tef and that’s about it. But I have learned that it is mostly grown in Ethiopia and Eritrea and is actually a grass. It is also gluten free. It is all manner of good for you like most whole grains are. All I know is that it is delicious.

Brown Teff Grain from Camas Country Mills

So where can you get this wonderful grain? Visit Camas Country Mill’s site to see their list of retailers. Or you can win a bag right here on this blog! They gave me a bag of teff to give away to my readers! You can enter this giveaway three ways (each person may enter once per way):

  1. Leave a comment on this post. Tell me what new ingredient you have used lately.
  2. Pin this recipe or any other recipe from Leave me a comment letting me know you did this.
  3. Share this post on facebook. Leave me a comment on this post letting me know you did this.

I will draw for and announce the winner Friday during Little’s mid-morning naptime. Entries accepted till Friday 6/15/12 at 9 AM PST.

Ok, back to cooking. I loosely followed the recipe acquired at the market. Nathan loved it and Little wolfed it down- garlic and all. I couldn’t stop talking about it all night. Seriously. This is up there in the top three things I have ever made.

Brown Teff Polenta in Bowl

Teff polenta (makes three entree or six side dish servings)

1 cup teff
4 cups water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup Parmesan
2 zucchini chopped in to bite size pieces
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
olive oil
1 medium tomato chopped
2 tbs basil chiffonade
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cheese (I used Monterrey jack although Cheddar or Gruyere would work lovely)

Put water in a sauce pan. Add salt and bring to a boil. Slowly add teff while stirring to prevent clumping. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes ish stirring often to prevent lumps. Taste often and turn the heat off when it reaches your desired level of tenderness and thickness. Stir in butter and Parmesan.

In another pan saute garlic and zucchini till almost done. Add tomato to the pan and cook till the tomato releases its juices. Sprinkle with basil and season.

Place the teff polenta in the bottom of a bowl. Top with the veggies and cheese. Enjoy.

Note- This could be made with regular polenta as well. Follow the package direction then top with the veggies.

Brown Teff Grain

Sweet potato, zucchini, and sausage dinner- yumminess

I love my husband (pardon the sappiness). He decided some time last year to buy a juicer and, based on the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, to go on a juice fast. Several of said fasts ensued of varying success levels and length. However this year he buckled down and fasted for 60 days. S.I.X.T.Y. days. It was maddening.

As someone who loves to cook I couldn’t cook for him. Every morning involved an elaborate 20 minute juicing spree as he made his juice for the day and cleaned up. Little and I looked on, often hanging out in the kitchen keeping him company.

Dinner time was hard on me. I wanted to sit at the table and eat but Nathan would suck down his juice and I would scrounge for dinner. My sister and brother-in-law came over for dinner often, mostly so I could have someone to cook for and eat with.

But is over. As of last Thursday he is more than 40 lbs lighter (HOT!) and way in to eating veggies. But the best part of that last sentence is he is EATING. And I got to make him dinner.

Nathan with juice - day 60That is him. Isn’t he handsome? That was his last juice breakfast. He had juice for lunch but I wasn’t there to photograph the very end. And that night I made him this for dinner. It was oh so good. Filling. Full of veggies. Full of love and care and affection that I hadn’t been able to give in the form of food for 60 days.

So proud of him. So glad this is over.

This recipe is entirely out of my own little brain. It is so easy. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand.

sweet potatoes and zucchini (just added to the pot)

Sweet potato, zucchini, and sausage dinner (serves 2 and a Little)

2 small or 1 large sweet potato
2 small or 1 large zucchini
1/2 onion
2 chicken sausages
olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop sweet potato in to bite sized pieces. Place in a pot of water over medium high heat and boil till fork tender. Drain. Chop zucchini, onion, and sausage into bite sized pieces. Saute zucchini, onion, sausage, and garlic powder in olive oil over medium high heat. When onions start to get soft add drained sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy. Makes spectacular left overs.

sweet potatoes and zucchini (cooked)

(We are feeding Little whatever we are eating as long as it is soft enough for him to gum. This is also known as baby led weaning or baby led solids. This meal is perfect for the family and for your Little as they can eat most of the dish! My Little gobbled it down.)