Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Fire-Roasted Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

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The days are getting shorter, which means it is time for me to start turning more to comfort food. Cheese stuffed shells are something that we frequently make when we have leftover meat sauce for spaghetti. Our base recipe is a simple cheese filling, ut it is easy to experiment by adding spinach, sausage, or other ingredients to the mixture.

Fire roasted spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg kamado grill
Fire-roasted Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells on the Big Green Egg.

Of course, you can make these in the oven but cooking them on the Big Green Egg gives them the enhanced fire-roasted flavor.

Fire roasted spinach and cheese stuffed shells cooked on the Big Green Egg kamado grill

Here is how we make our Fire Roasted Spinach Stuffed Shells on the Big Green Egg. One tip: If your leftover meat sauce is extra chunky or "rustic," you might want to pulse it in a food processor. I think it is easier to work with a finer texture sauce with this one. 


Fire Roasted Spinach Stuffed Shells

www.nibblemethis.com

Published 11/13/2020

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, shredded - divided (about 2 cups)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach, wilted and strained
  • 4-5 cups meat sauce for spaghetti (depends on the size of your vessel)
  • 8 jumbo pasta shells, cooked according to directions.
For Garnish
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • fresh shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese 

Instructions

  1. Preheat. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat it to 350°f. I used a Big Green Egg with a cast-iron platesetter (aka ConvEGGtor).
  2. Make the stuffing. Mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of shredded mozzarella, egg, Italian seasoning, red pepper flake, and the spinach.
  3. Prepare the shells. Press about 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture into each shell. Spread about 1 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish. Place the shells on top of the sauce and then fill around the shells with more sauce until they are about two-thirds covered. 
  4. Fire roast the shells. Place the casserole dish in the grill and let it cook for 30 minutes. Then top with the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella and let cook until the cheese is golden about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Finish the dish. Remove the casserole from the grill. Top with chopped parsley and fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese as desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.

Cook time: 00 hrs. 45-50 mins.

Total time: 01 hrs 15-20 mins.


Big Green Egg in a Challenger Designs Torch grill cart
Setting up the Egg on a nice Fall afternoon. I used one of my large Big Green Eggs, the one that lives in my Challenger Designs Torch grill cart. A spider/stone combo is shown, ut I ended up using a cast iron platesetter (aka ConvEGGtor) as my heat deflector for indirect heat.

This Big Green Egg is 12 years old, so lots of things are cracked or broken - the firebowl, the fire ring, the base, and the metal hoop rings are worn out so it won't keep alignment.
Of course, your fire always burns better when you clean out your Egg first. Here, I'm using a Kick Ash Basket and their Ash Can, which makes cleaning easier. Yes, I know my fire bowl is cracked. This Big Green Egg is 12 years old, so lots of things are cracked or broken - the fire bowl, the fire ring, the base, and the metal hoop rings are worn out, so it won't keep alignment. But it was my first Big Green Egg, so I keep it around ;)


Lighting a Big Green Egg kamado grill with a JJ George Grill Torch
My preferred way of firing up the Egg is a JJ George grill torch. If I'm out of gas, I like to use hay wicks or the paper towel & oil track.

Settled in at 350°f and ready to cook.


Always wring out the moisture from your cooked spinach or it will make your cheese mixture too watery.
Always wring out the moisture from your cooked spinach, or it will make your cheese mixture too watery.

We cook these in casserole dishes or just a couple in individual serving dishes; either way works fine.

Making spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg.
I don't actually measure out the stuffing, to be honest. I just get a heaping spoonful and then adjust as needed.

Making spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg
Stuffed and ready to go into the Egg. You can also make them ahead to this point and then freeze them for later.

These small casserole dishes are a good option for small batches. These were just plain cheese shells, no spinach.

Cooking spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg in a Challenger Designs Torch cart
My set up for the Egg was a Kick Ash Basket slightly overfilled with Rockwood Charcoal, a cast-iron plastesetter for my heat deflector, and a Craycort cast-iron grate.

How to fire roast casseroles on the Big Green Egg.
Same set up for this batch.


After 30 minutes, the shells should be cooked through and ready for the cheese topping. The exception would be if you were cooking these from frozen, then it may take 45 minutes before adding the cheese.

You can use different cheeses on top if you like. We often use Mozzarella or a parmesan blend.

Cooking spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg kamado grill
Once you top it with cheese, just cook it until the cheese is how you like it - that could be just melted or cooked until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

Crusty bread on the side is a must, so I put a take-and-bake French loaf on with the shells.

Spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg
I'm not super-precise on measuring the cheese topping either. 

Cooking fire roasted spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg kamado grill
Looking about done. Time to hit it with a little fresh chopped parsley or green onion.

Yum!

Fire-Roasted Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells on the Big Green Egg
Ahhh yes! We typically go with 2 shells per person. They are rather filling.

Fire roasted spinach and cheese stuffed shells on the Big Green Egg
Ready to be devoured!

These re-heat well, so leftovers are welcome.

Cheesy, delicious, and it won't leave you hungry.



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