I love stuffed shells, artichokes, spinach and cheese. This recipe is the perfect combination of all these things. Be aware that it is rich and gooey and delicious and certainly not low calorie. It is a great recipe for a birthday or anniversary celebration or for just any old day you want pure decadence on a plate. Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Lemon Ricotta Bechamel
(a variation of a recipe in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
The Shells and Stuffing:
- 18 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 12 oz frozen artichokes, thawed and patted dry
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/8 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cups whole milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley or basil to garnish
Boil shells in salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
For the filling – In a heavy skillet or pot, melt the three tablespoons of butter and cook until it turns nutty brown, stirring occasionally. Once browned, add the olive oil then onion and saute until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until completely absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer the artichoke mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add both the cheeses, the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture in the food processor until well chopped but with some texture.
For the sauce – Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the milk one bit at a time, whisking continuously so that no lumps form. Add the garlic and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes to thicken. Remove from the heat and add the ricotta, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
To assemble – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour half of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the artichoke filling into each shell, placing the filled shell seam side up. When each shell is full, spoon the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the herb garnish and serve immediately.