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This is another VERY easy dish. I used vegan sausage but real sausage would work, too. I added a half cup of ricotta because I had it around but a vegan alternative would work – or it could just simply be omitted. I used a homemade sauce I had left over but your favorite sauce, homemade or not, will do. Even a white sauce would work – if that is what floats your boat. Whatever your dietary fancies might be – this dish will please you – I promise!
Vegan sausage is usually pretty nasty but I keep hoping I can find a way to doctor it up & make it edible and, finally, with this dish – I SUCCEEDED! The secret was a pinch of fennel & a shit ton of crushed red pepper. The filling in these shells was so delicious – I kept eating it directly out of the pan. A few simple ingredients, a half hour in the oven – and you are neck deep in heaven. Trust!
Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells (Vegan – Vegetarian – Or Not)
Feeds two very well
1/2 lb dry fill-able pasta shells (any variety works)
2 sausages (vegan or otherwise) – chopped
1/2 lb fresh spinach
4-10 garlic cloves (depending on the size & your passion for garlic) – coarsely chopped
10 oz can chopped tomatoes (I used Rotel)
1/2 cup ricotta (or vegan alternative) – optional
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)
1 pinch fennel
1 tsp dry oregano
1 TBS crushed red pepper (I used closer to 3 TBS but I love spice)
1-2 cups red pasta sauce (I used 1 cup but if you like wetter pastas – use more)
1 handful of grated mozzarella (or vegan alternative)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the pasta until al dente – or maybe a minute less than the package suggests. Drain & run under cool water.
If you are using real meat, you probably won’t need olive oil as the sausage will provide that fat. If you are using vegan sausage – add 1-2 TBS of olive oil to a large saute pan.
Saute the sausage with spices (fennel, oregano & crushed red pepper) until it is cooked (cook thoroughly if using real meat – or heat it through, if using vegan meat).
Add the garlic & spinach & tomatoes. Cook until the spinach is just wilted.
Put the mix in a food processor & puree it. Add the Parmesan & the ricotta (if using it). The blending is not strictly necessary but it makes filling the pasta easier if the filling is mushy. Season with salt & pepper & blend them in.
Put your pasta sauce on the bottom of a casserole or pie dish. Fill the pasta shells & place them on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with whatever amount of mozzarella appeals to you. Put it in the oven & bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly & the pasta is brown in spots.