Stuffed shell pasta has always intrigued me in a very interesting sort of way. It gives off this playful aura, and yet at the same time homely and filling. *no pun intended*
Ricotta cheese is a common stuffing for cannelloni. However, for this recipe, I'm using a mixture of queso panela (panela cheese) and mozzarella. Panela has a slightly crumbly texture, but less crumbly than queso fresco, I thought it'd make for a good substitute for ricotta. I also wanted a slightly chewier texture of the cheese, so I added some mozzarella to give it a stringier, chewier texture.
A local farmers market was having a sale on a variety of pork sausages, so guess who got adventurous and bought a bunch of different ones? :D The one featured here is an apple cinnamon pork sausage. I was a little skeptical at first, not sure what to expect of it. However, upon trying, I knew I had to go back and get more before the sale is officially over. haha It has a subtle apple and cinnamon taste that complements the pork very well. What I love best about it was the fact that it was not too salty.
1- If you cannot find queso panela, feel free to use ricotta, queso fresco, or feta cheese if you like. Soft, fresh cheese with a milder taste works better than, say, parmesan or cheddar that will overpower the flavor of spinach.
2- You can substitute with cannelloni or manicotti (tube pasta) or lumaconi (large snail pasta) if you prefer.
3- Large shell pastas are also called conchiglioni.
4- Instead of oregano, feel free to substitute with basil.
Panela Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
10-12 large pasta shells (conchiglioni)
1 cup tomato based pasta sauce
5 oz panela cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
2 cups spinach, sliced and loosely packed
1/8 tsp black pepper
scant 1/8 tsp crushed oregano
water for boiling pasta
1 tomato, sliced into thin wedges
1 apple cinnamon pork sausage, cooked and sliced
Boil water in a pot and cook pasta for about 15 minutes or according to packaging instructions.
Drain and let the pasta cool down.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Meanwhile, wash and chop spinach.
Crumble panela and toss with mozzarella, black pepper, oregano, and spinach.
Stuff the fillings into the shells and place in a lightly oiled baking tray.
Cover the tray with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
While it is baking, heat up the pasta sauce on low fire.
Plate pasta, tomato wedges, and sausages, and spoon sauce over the pasta.
Lastly, enjoy your meal :)
Good luck, and have fun stuffing yourself with the stuffed shells ^.^ *pun intended*