This recipe sort of came about by accident. I was making the classic comfort food spinach and ricotta stuffed shells (don’t worry, I will share that recipe another day) and as usual, I wasn’t thinking (paying attention) when I dumped the entire box of pasta into the boiling water. Once I had used up all of my cheese mixture, I realized I had a ton of pasta left over. My son, who happened to be passing through the kitchen to feed his face for the 9th time, noticed and asked me what I was going to do with them.
I guess throw them out, I replied. He was appalled.
Why can’t we make more of the other? He asked. Well, because I don’t have any more ricotta. He made a face.
And then our wheels started turning. He loves the whole culture and creativity of food as much as I do, which is amazingly fun. We began throwing potential combinations around. How about goat cheese? I asked him. Too strong on it’s own.
Oh! I have some cottage cheese. Let’s use that. And some extra baby spinach.
YES! He replied, and how about putting some BACON in there? I’ll show you how to make homemade bacon bits.
And that was we needed to get the most delicious show that you’ve eaten in a long time on the road. This is a totally unique and delicious take on a very easy to make and (let’s be honest) ordinary dish from the home cook’s repertoire. You won’t be sorry you tried it. I promise.
First, watch the video on making your own bacon bits. Then go forth and create.
Pasta Shells Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Spinach, and BACON (Serves 4-5)
What You’ll Need:
1/2 box of large pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
1 1/2 cups of 1 % cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1/3 cup of herbed goat cheese, crumbled
2-3 cups packed fresh baby spinach
1 large egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (plain or Italian)
3/4 cup of parmesan cheese, divided in half
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce
6 slices of bacon, diced and prepared as ‘bacon bits’
About 2 cups prepared tomato basil sauce (homemade or good quality)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
What You’ll Do:
- Prepare the bacon and let cool.
- Wilt the spinach in a sautee pan. Let cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the cottage cheese and goat cheese in a food processor or blender. Process until combined and smooth but not too smooth. Add the spinach and whizz a couple more times until combined. Remove the mixture to a bowl, and mix in the egg, breadcrumbs, 1/2 of the parmesan, bacon, and seasonings. If you’re not shy about the egg, give it a little taste and see if it needs anything else (for example, we added a little more hot sauce.)
- Cover the bottom of a 9 x12 (ish) baking dish with tomato sauce (maybe a 1/2 inch deep). One by one, stuff the shells with about 1 1/2 tbsp of the cheese and bacon mixture and place in the baking dish. You may or may not have some shells still left over. This sort of thing isn’t precise.
- Top the shells with tomato sauce and more parmesan. If you’d like, you can also sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes.
Serve with a nice salad and some crusty bread.