++ These Stuffed Shells Florentine can be cooked outside on a covered grill set at “low” so your kitchen remains nice and cool !!t
The term Florentine, or à la Florentine, refers to any dish which is prepared in the style of the fabulous city of Florence, which resides in the Tuscan region of Italy. Florentine recipes often feature meat, poultry or fish served over a bed of spinach. In this recipe the spinach is, in fact, mixed with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses – plus eggs, fresh parsley and some spices. All this deliciousness becomes the filling for the stuffed shells, over which a quick and easy marina sauce is poured, followed by a grating of either Parmesan or Romano cheese. I’ve been making this recipe for years and it’s always been a family favorite, however I decided to change both the filling and the sauce – and I have to say I’m very happy with the results!
I was recently invited to spend a weekend with friends in the beautiful town of Wells, Maine. I had decided Stuffed Shells Florentine would be great to bring because everyone likes them – and this recipe makes a lot! Several of us planned to head north in just one car, so, in order to save space, I prepared the filling and the sauce – and cooked the shells – in advance and then assembled the final dish the following night.
And, get this, my friend decided she’d cook the stuffed shells on the grill so we wouldn’t heat up her kitchen. I never would’ve thought of that . . . We took the containers of sauce, the filling and the precooked shells outside and assembled everything on the picnic table. Since there were three of us stuffing the shells, it only took a few minutes.
We sealed the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, and placed it in the grill – which was set to LOW. Then we enjoyed a drink and just let the Stuffed Shells Florentine simmer away. We were very pleasantly surprised when we checked after a half hour to see the sauce bubbling away, signaling that the shells were thoroughly heated through.
So, now you have two choices – heat these in either your oven or your grill. Enjoy!
++ Cook stuffed shells in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes.
++ Cook stuffed shells in covered grill set on LOW for about 30 minutes.
- 1 full box of jumbo pasta shells – cooked according to package directions and drained (We had about five shells for which we didn’t have filling, but they were the ones which had fallen apart, so that worked out well !)
- 2 jars (24 oz.) prepared tomato sauce (I like Bertolli – Tomato & Basil)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
- 4 cups ricotta cheese (32 ounces)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese – plus extra to sprinkle on top !
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese – plus extra to sprinkle on top !
- 1 (10 oz) package frozen (DEFROSTED AND DRAINED!!) spinach (I actually squeeze the defrosted spinach to get out all the excess water.)
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (a.k.a. Italian parsley)
- 1 tsp. salt – (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
– – – – – “A Little Help from My Friends” Marinara Sauce – – – – –
Place two jars (24 oz.) of marinara sauce into a large saucepan – add 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine and 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil. Simmer, uncovered, over medium to medium-low heat while you cook the pasta shells and prepare the stuffing.
+ + I had planned to prepare a meat sauce featured on the blog “From the Bartolini Kitchens”. I had even purchased the ingredients but ended up “doctoring” a purchased sauce when I realized I was running out of time. (And I was actually very satisfied with the results of my “doctoring”.) But, if you’d like to make this dish with a traditional Italian meat sauce, take a minute to head over to John’s blog!
– – – – – To Prepare the Filling – – – – –
In a medium bowl, mix 4 cups ricotta cheese, 2 cups shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan (or Romano) cheese , the defrosted and DRAINED spinach, 2 eggs, 1 Tbs.chopped flat leaf parsley, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.
– – – – – Putting It All Together – – – – –
Pour about two cups of sauce in the bottom of a 10 x 13 pan – or a large disposable aluminum pan. With a large spoon, spread the sauce out a bit so most of the bottom is covered with sauce – you don’t have to be fussy about it ….
Fill each shell with a heaping soup spoonful of the cheese/spinach mixture. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells.
Sprinkle some shredded Mozzarella and grated Parmesan. (We ended up using some grated Monterey Jack in place of the grated Parmesan, which added a nice little “kick” of flavor!)
Ready for the Oven or Grill !! (Cover with aluminum foil.)
Cover with aluminum foil. If using oven, set temperature to 350 and cook until heated through – about 35 – 40 minutes. If using you grill, set dial to LOW and cook until heated through – about 30 minutes. (I put a – freshly washed – finger in the middle to check for doneness. It’s a bit unorthodox – but it works!)
Once the stuffed shells are heated through, remove the aluminum foil and let the shells sit about five minutes. Of course, if you just can’t wait, then you can skip the “let it sit” part. Enjoy!