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Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells With Creamy Vodka Sauce

Spinach-Ricotta Stuffed Shells With Creamy Vodka Sauce


  • Salt

  • 1 pound large shells 

For the vodka sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 crushed cloves garlic, sliced

  • A fat pinch of red pepper flakes 

  • 1 cup vodka (Rach likes Tito's)

  • One 28-ounce can diced or whole Italian tomatoes (if using whole, crush into pieces by hand)

  • 1 bottle tomato passata

  • A sprinkle of salt

  • A sprinkle of sugar

  • A handful of basil leaves, torn 

  • 1 cup heavy cream 

For the spinach-ricotta filling: 

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 2 cloves garlic , chopped

  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry

  • Salt and white or fine black pepper 

  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste (about 1/16 teaspoon) 

  • Juice of ½ lemon 

  • 3 cups ricotta cheese 

  • 1 egg 

  • 1 cup finely diced mozzarella, plus 2 cups shredded mozzarella

  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

  • Handful fresh basil, to garnish


Serves: 6

Bring a large pot of water to boil and season it with salt. Add pasta and under cook the pasta 3 minutes less than directions. Drain, arrange cut-side up on parchment-lined tray.  

For vodka sauce, in large pot over medium heat, combine EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and butter. When butter melts, stir in the garlic and red pepper and stir 2 minutes, add vodka and reduce by half, add tomatoes, passata, salt, sugar, and basil, and simmer 20 minutes, then add cream and reduce heat to low. 

Preheat oven to 400˚F. 

For spinach-ricotta filling, heat a skillet over medium heat with EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, add garlic and stir a minute or 2, add spinach and combine, season with salt and white or fine black pepper and nutmeg, add juice of ½ lemon and cool. Combine spinach with ricotta, egg, diced mozzarella and half the Parm. Pour a couple of cups of sauce into a baking dish and fill shells, arrange open-side up and pour additional sauce over, making a stripe across each row of the shells. I angle the shells in to fill pan tightly. Top with some shredded mozzarella and remaining Parm. Leave enough of the shells peeking out so you can see that these are spinach-stuffed shells.   

Cover shells with foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake until cheese is brown and bubbly, 12 to 15 minutes more. Garnish with fresh basil.