Baked cheesy pasta is always welcome in cold winter months. We don't eat pasta that much, so I don't worry about the refined flour in it.
Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Shells
from What Megan's Making
8 ounces (about 20) jumbo pasta shells
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling and brushing
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
For the sauce (or use any tomato sauce you have on hand)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
For the stuffed shells: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta shells and cook until slightly softened but still firm, about 7-10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with olive oil and toss; set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until golden in spots, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 more minutes. Add the spinach and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.
Finely chop the spinach-mushroom mixture and combine in a bowl with the ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stuff each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the filling; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the tomato sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, then rinse out the can with 1 cup water and add to the skillet; add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil and pour in half of the tomato sauce. Add the stuffed shells, then top with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes; uncover and continue baking until bubbly, 15 to 20 more minutes. Sprinkle with some extra mozzarella and Parmesan and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.