DJ Mermaid’s Family Holiday Recipe for Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Remember the 9-year-old who wrote a post here for Valentine’s Day years ago about how much she loves her Dad? DJ Mermaid (her pen name) is twelve now, and for this holiday guest post she’s focusing on her mom.

by DJ Mermaid

DJ Mermaid and her mom

DJ Mermaid and her mom

Hi everyone!

Coming to you from our own Italian kitchen… It’s DJ Mermaid and Mommy! In our family, the heart of Christmas is the food. This recipe is one of our Christmas staples, and the story behind it has been in our family for ages.

Enter…. ricotta and spinach stuffed shells. Mom and I both wholeheartedly agree that they are quite a delectable package of cheesy goodness. In order to not get such a high spinach taste, we slather them with tomato sauce to give a pop of acidity.

Mom has a special connection to this recipe because as a little girl she used to make Christmas dinner with her gramma, and this was a dish they would make. Her gramma also used to forget (on purpose) to include ingredients in recipes, but we think this is accurate. Mom and I make it together now to feed our family on the holidays and keep the tradition going. Mangia Mangia! Let’s eat!

Shells: You can use pasta shells out of the box (1-2 lbs), but we like to make the shells from scratch – they are called crepe noodles.
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup milk
• 3 large eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place flour in a bowl; whisk in milk, eggs and salt until smooth. Heat a lightly greased 8-in. skillet; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into center of skillet. Spread into a 5-in. circle. Cook over medium heat until set; do not brown or turn. Repeat with remaining batter, making 18 crepes. Stack crepes with waxed paper in between; set aside.

Filling: Get good quality Ricotta cheese and be sure you drain the water out of it. Combine all of the following in a bowl. Use salt & pepper to taste.

  • 1 ½ -2lbs of ricotta
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tblsp parsley
  • ½ to ¾ c parmesan
  • 8 oz cooked spinach – be sure you squeeze the water out of this too.

Sauce: There’s no written recipe for this in our house. It’s all done to taste & mom’s memory so it tastes different each time.

  • 3 or 4 large (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion minced
  • Garlic -as much as you want minced
    Oregano, basil – as much as you want chopped
  • 1lb mushrooms
  • Salt, pepper – to taste
  • Splash of red pepper
  • Tomato paste

DJ Mermaid and her momStart with the onions in a deep pot – sauté in olive oil. Once they are translucent, add the garlic & mushrooms. Sautee for another 5 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, the herbs & salt/pepper/red pepper. Cook for a long time. Mom cooks it all day, so it becomes a thick sauce. Add tomato paste if it seems too watery after a few hours.

To assemble: Spread a little sauce on the bottom of a 9×11 baking dish. Take a shell and fill it with a spoonful of filling. Place it in the pan. Repeat until full. Cover then with sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Take the top off then and bake until the cheese gets browned. Serve with extra sauce.


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