Monday, June 27, 2011

Ricotta, Spinach & Bulgur Stuffed Shells


I am so behind in posting, it's ridiculous. I have several recipes just waiting to be organized, edited and published. But, life keeps getting in the way. I have my sister and nieces visiting from Oregon for 2 weeks! Which is fun...but, not very conducive to getting a whole lot done. My mother is also planning a big move out West...which, is a whole 'nother story...one that I will share more about at a later date.
Of all the meals I've been cooking, and preparing to share here....this recipe wouldn't have been the first I would have chosen {not because it isn't delicious, because it is!}. Mainly because, who the heck wants to make stuffed shells right now?! It's nearly July!
The thing is, up until this past week, it's been unseasonably chilly in New England. We've had loads of rain, wind and thunderstorms. That works out well for making comfort casserole dinners, like this one. I also knew that with my sister in town, the leftovers would be eaten {which happened with remarkable swiftness}.
I've been wanting to make this since I first saw it in Whole Living magazine a few months ago. I was intrigued by the idea of adding bulgur wheat to the filling...something I've never seen done before. I love bulgur wheat. For those of you not familiar with the grain, it's a type of whole wheat...which has been parboiled, dried and ground. It has a great texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Because it's parboiled, it cooks very quickly, with little effort and has a high nutritional content...being high in fiber, protein and B vitamins.
One of the benefits of adding it to a recipe like this one is that it helps add nutrition to something otherwise not all that good for you. It also lowers the fat content by substituting some of the cheesy filling without sacrificing great flavor.
I, however, added some of the fat right back in by using my favorite tomato sauce recipe instead of the one recommended. I'm addicted to that sauce, and so is my family. Of course, you can absolutely use the sauce of your liking to keep it more low-fat. I also made a few other changes to the recipe, based on what I had in my pantry...like, substituting crushed tomatoes for whole, adding some fresh mozzarella on top of the shells instead of Parmesan, and cutting back on the quantity of spinach. I was very happy with the results, so I think I'll stick with this.

I decided to drain the ricotta a bit. So, I added a 15 ounce container of part-skim ricotta to a colander and let it drain while I prepared the rest of the dish.
Next up, the sauce. Add one 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes to a medium saucepan. Add in one small onion {peeled & halved} and 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Keep simmering for 45 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally.

Then, add a 1/2 cup bulgur to a mixing bowl.

Pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over the wheat, stir once, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 30 minutes. When done, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook 25 jumbo pasta shells in a large pot of salted water, according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Steam 8 ounces of fresh spinach leaves in an inch, or so of boiling water, until tender. Drain, coarsely chop, and add to the bowl of bulgur. Add the ricotta, one beaten egg, some kosher salt and black pepper {to taste}.

Stir to combine.

Spoon a cup of sauce into the bottom of an over-proof casserole dish {9" x 13"} and spread out evenly. Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture, and arrange in the dish.

Pour the remaining sauce over the shells, and top each one with a little square of mozzarella.

Cover with foil, and bake for 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving.

Ricotta, Spinach & Bulgur Stuffed Shells

Adapted from Whole Living magazine, March 2011
Serves 6-8

1 {28 ounce} can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, peeled & halved
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
3/4 cup boiling water
25 jumbo pasta shells
8 ounces fresh spinach {stems removed}
1 {15 ounce} container part-skim ricotta
1 beaten egg
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
a few slices of fresh mozzarella

Add the canned tomatoes, butter, onion, and a pinch of kosher salt to a medium saucepan. Heat until the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, uncovered {stir occasionally}. Remove from heat, and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the bulgur to a small bowl. Pour in the boiling water, stir once, place some plastic wrap over the top of the bowl, and let sit for 30 minutes.
Cook the pasta shells in a large pot of salted, boiling water, according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Steam the spinach, in an inch, or so, of boiling water until tender. Drain, squeeze out any excess moisture and transfer to a cutting board. Coarsely chop the spinach and add to the bulgur. Stir in the ricotta, and
season with salt and pepper. Stir in the beaten egg.
Spoon a cup of sauce into the bottom of an over-proof casserole dish {9" x 13"} and spread out evenly. Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture, and arrange in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells, and top each one with a little square of mozzarella. Cover with foil, and bake for 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving.
Make ahead: This recipe can be made ahead, all the way through to the end, cooled to room temperature, and then frozen. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, until hot.
Click here for the printable recipe.

10 comments:

Joanne said...

I'll be honest...I could eat stuffed shells in 100 degree weather and I'd be quite content. Especially if they were as good for me as these are!

melonbelly said...

wow! these look delicious!

www.melonbelly.blogspot.com

Kirsten @ Triple Max Tons said...

oh. my. gosh. amazing. must. eat. NOW.

Anonymous said...

What a great recipe. I've never cooked bulgur, I saw bags labeled with numbers and was wondering which kind did you use for this recipe.
Thanks,
MariaM.

Winnie said...

This looks so delicious. And I agree- summer or not, this is perfect for putting in the freezer to warm up when you're busy :)

Ellie said...

I am curious about the texture of this?? Never put it in a filling like that. I may have to try this one!

Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) said...

What a great idea to fill these with bulgur. I make a similar recipe but mine are just stuffed with spinach and cheese. These look great. And don't pressure yourself too much! Summer is supposed to be a time for cutting yourself some slack. It's good for the soul! :)

kate said...

Anonymous-
I have also seen Bulgur marked with numbers, indicating the size of the grain...from coarse to fine.
For this recipe I used Bob's Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Quick Cooking Bulgur Wheat. Here's a link for reference.
http://www.bobsredmill.com/bulgur.html
I would say this product is on the coarser side. But, honestly, I think any type would work for this recipe. Just check the package instructions to see if my proportions of bulgur to water would work with whichever you choose.

kate said...

Ellie-
I thought the texture was great! If you try it, I hope you like it as much as I did :)
Enjoy!

kate said...

Rivki-
Thanks for reminding me to let go a bit...you're right, Summer is a time to relax! I needed that :)
When I normally make stuffed shells I do the spinach/ricotta thing. This is new for me. Hope you give it a try & enjoy it!

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