Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Lamb and Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

Stuffed pasta dishes are rich, loaded with flavor, and very inviting—kind of simple too. You want to keep the ingredients to a minimum since some of them need to fit into little shells. Note: Don’t be fooled by the word “jumbo” on the pasta box—yes, these are shells meant for stuffing but they’re only about two inches long.

Here, I went with a savory combination of ground lamb and fresh spinach along with sweet, creamy mascarpone to highlight the filling. An easy tomato sauce adds its own sweet, fruity note, and a little Pecorino Romano cheese tops it all off with a salty bite.

Another note: Mascarpone is sweeter and creamier than regular cream cheese, but you can substitute the latter. Both will act as a binder for the filling, helping it hold together when you pack the shells. And I do mean pack. This filling recipe would easily fill 18-20 shells if you prefer to use a lesser amount for each one.

Tip: You could also use ricotta in place of the mascarpone, but be prepared for the filling not to stick together as well. That’s ok—a little messier but still delicious.

Serves 4-6

  • 16 jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for oiling dish
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided in half
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 oz mascarpone (or cream cheese), room temperature
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes (from a 28-oz can)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • 3/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Chopped Spinach, Garlic, and Shallot
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cook the shells in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the lamb, half the chopped garlic, and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat, until the shallot and garlic soften, the lamb is just cooked through, and most of the liquid is absorbed, 10-12 minutes.
  4. Transfer the lamb mixture to a bowl and wipe out the pan. Let the mixture cool 10 minutes. (It will continue to absorb liquid.) Stir in the mascarpone and spinach until well combined. Set aside while you make the marinara.
Lamb Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Lamb 
Lamb Mixture
  1. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and remaining half of the chopped garlic. Sauté 2 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, parsley, and chile flakes and season with salt and pepper. 
  3. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool while you stuff the shells.
Onion and Garlic 
Tomato Mixture Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Tomato Sauce
  1. Lightly oil a 3-quart baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with 2-3 tablespoons of the lamb mixture and place in the dish. Tip: Divide the lamb mixture into 4 sections then stuff 4 shells with each section.
  2. Spoon the marinara on top of and around the shells and scatter the Pecorino Romano on top. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
Divide into 4 Sections
Stuffed Shells 
Ready to Bake
Bake until bubbly and beginning to brown, 25-30 minutes. To serve, place 3 or 4 stuffed shells in pasta bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve right away.

Lamb and Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

1 comment: