Spinach and Almond Ricotta Stuffed Shells

 

Stuffed shells have always been a household favourite - my dad makes his amazing tomato sauce and we would all help stuff the shells. Replacing the classic ricotta with the almond version is something I’ve wanted to try for a while and the results were so much better than I thought. The key is getting the ricotta as smooth as possible.

For the almond ricotta filling:

1+1/2 cup almonds

salt

1+1/2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

3/4 of a package of jumbo pasta shells (~250g)

For the tomato sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, small diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 can San Marzano (or other whole tomatoes)

3-4 basil leaves

salt and pepper

Make the almond ricotta filling:

Soak almonds in hot water for 2 hours, reserve 1/3 cup soaking water and then drain.

Add soaked almonds, reserved soaking water, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse until smooth: it might take a little while to get the graininess out.

In a sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the minced garlic and fry for 1 minute, then add spinach and sauté until softened, then season with salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Stir the sautéed spinach into the almond ricotta. Taste and season, adding more nutritional yeast, salt etc.

Make the tomato sauce:

Place a large sauce pan over medium heat.

Once hot, add olive oil - wait 20-30 seconds for the oil to heat up, then add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, add garlic. Cook for 1 minute.

Stir in tomato paste to evenly coat onions and garlic then add the tomatoes, crushing them with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Add the whole basil leave and simmer and cover to allow the flavours to develop.

Puree 1/2 of the sauce in a high speed blender, then add the pureed sauce back to the sauce pan with the non-pureed half.

Assemble:

Fill a large pot with water, salt generously and bring to a boil

Add shells and cook until softened, but still have some bite, and drain

In a baking dish with high sides, spread a layer of the sauce on the bottom.

Spoon about 1 tbsp of ricotta filling into each shell and place in baking dish in a single layer

Cover shells with more sauce, and top with cheese if wanted.

Bake for 20 minutes or so.

Sprinkle parmesan on top to serve.

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