Spotlight Ingredient: Spinach (Recipe: Spinach Ricotta Shells)

As the Dowager Countess innocently inquired “What is a ‘week-end’?” on Downton Abbey, I too have experienced my days merging together into one blur. However, I haven’t been idly sipping tea and sacking servants, rather I am so immersed in the routine of feeding-burping-changing-bouncing Clara, that most days feel the same.

We’ve passed that six-week milestone together, Clara and I. She is more alert and smiling sweetly, stealing my heart every time her little mouth turns up at the corners. I have so enjoyed the early days, but truth be told, I’ve missed blogging, and I can’t wait to get back into developing recipes and sharing them with you.

I have to extend a big “thank you” to the guest bloggers who helped fill my shoes while I took some time off. Annie, Kelsey, Andrew, Jan, Katie, and Jessica – thank you for sharing your expertise with my readers! You’ve enriched this space and lent a different perspective on everything from freezer cooking and finicky eaters, to fresh mozzarella and feeding tweens. So, thank you!

Now let’s talk about spinach. It’s one of the earliest spring vegetables, and as my son loves to remind me, is a super food. That alone is reason enough to make this pasta for dinner tonight.


Even in the frigid Yukon Territories where I grew up, spinach was the first of our crops to bravely raise its dark green leaves above the soil in the spring. They were a welcome sight after a long winter, and those delicate spinach salads we tossed together were a promise of the bounty we were to enjoy in the coming months while the rest of the garden greens caught up to the front-running spinach.

Aside from being an early bird, spinach is incredibly easy to grow. You can literally throw the seeds in the ground as early as mid-April (that’s now!) and enjoy baby spinach by Mother’s Day.

Spinach is popular in my kitchen because it can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, and its mild flavor makes it an easy sell to my children, especially since they know it is a super food!

Both prep and cooking time is short for spinach, making it an easy accompaniment to many dishes such as soups, sandwiches and pastas, like the one below.

Spinach Ricotta Shells

This simple pasta recipe is typical of how were eating now – easy, one-pot meals that can be adapted to selective palates (see variations below), and that make terrific leftovers.

If I can, I do some dinner prep in the afternoon, but more often than not, my window to cook the evening meal is only open for about 15 minutes. The instant Danny steps in the door, I hand the baby off to him and attack the kitchen, preparing a meal that can be stirred together and on the table in a jiffy.

If you happen to have a little more time on your hands, this recipe would be just incredible made with homemade linguine noodles, fresh creamy ricotta, and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, as well as the essential fresh spinach. Do you get what I’m saying here? Someday, I’m going to go all out and put it together…

Spinach Ricotta Shells
4.8 from 5 reviews
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Recipe type: Dinner
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 6
This fast and easy vegetarian dinner showcases fresh spinach, and creamy ricotta brings it all together.
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 5 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 500 grams conchiglie or large pasta shells
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Melt butter in a large frying pan and add shallots. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until shallots are soft.
  3. Add all the spinach to the pan, salt lightly, and cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water for 8-9 minutes or recommended cooking time.
  5. In a large serving bowl, whisk together egg and ricotta. Set aside.
  6. Using a pair of cooking tongs, turn spinach in the pan until it is wilted, but not completely cooked. Remove from heat.
  7. Drain pasta and add to ricotta mixture. Toss well to coat. Add spinach to the pasta and combine well.
  8. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper as needed and serve at once.
Notes
If you are concerned about consuming raw egg, you may substitute 1/2 cup of whole cream in its place. This recipe lends itself well to add-ins. Here’s what I’ve been known to toss in with the pasta:
  • Chopped ham
  • Cooked, crumbled bacon
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes

 

What is your favorite way to serve up spinach?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. This is an amazing recipe! I don’t often pair spinach and pasta, I just don’t think about it, but I think I might be doing this as soon as my baby spinach decides to make an appearance in the garden! We love green smoothies with spinach, but I think my favorite way to eat spinach is in frittata. Some onion, mushrooms and A LOT of spinach, eggs, oven, done :-)
    Heather’s last post: Green Week – For the Homestead

  2. I’m totally making this for dinner this week! Love this!
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar’s last post: Double Fudge Oreo Cookies

  3. I love spinach. We add it to smoothies, make homemade dressing and have a great salad and use it to make pesto.
    Steph’s last post: The Problem with Comprehensive Plans

  4. Your pasta dish looks so delicious!
    I also like to squeeze in extra spinach in Green Monster smoothies. You can’t even taste it unless you add a LOT and even then, it’s not a bad thing:-).
    Sarah’s last post: Hello, Monday

  5. Welcome back! For some strange reason, spinach has always been the vegetable that my kids like the most (hooray!), so we add it to everything! It doesn’t require a lot of prep on my end, and the two factors combined make it a perfect food for our family. We add it to soups, pastas, tacos, burritos, and always put it on pizza.

  6. I’ve made this dish with white beans as the protein, but the ricotta cheese might be a nice change. Thanks for the recipe.
    Simple Living with Diane Balch’s last post: FOOD REVOLUTION DAY: Stand Up for Real Food

  7. I love one pot pasta dinners. Sometimes they are the perfect trick-up-the-sleeve after a long day. I love spinach and pasta too. Its so nice to hear your little one call spinach “super”-I should try that on my little guy since he is very much into superheroes. :)
    Melissa @ Baking For The Boys’s last post: A Perfect Lunch (Recipes: Potato Chips & French Dip)

  8. Lovely recipe!! I will be making one of my favorite spinach recipes tonight–spanokopita.
    Amy’s last post: 4 lovely new hens

  9. Perfect simple and quick dinner!
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel’s last post: Cheesy Hasselback Potatoes

  10. I often add spinach to my red sauce to serve with hot pasta.

    And I am also fan of green smoothies. My son likes me to put strawberries in his smoothies, and I agree that spinach + strawberries is a lovely combination –in a salad too.
    Julia’s last post: Earth Week Green Smoothies

  11. My Fall spinach did not come up well so I left it to overwinter. Lo and behold, the warmish winter weather resulted in beautiful spinach for the early Spring! It would take a while to amass 5 cups of baby spinach, but I think this recipe would be worth it! What a great recipe to have on hand when vegetarian guests come to visit!

  12. Who did the Dowager Countess sack??

    My favorite use of spinach is simply sauteed as a side to liver and mac/cheese. For whatever reason, that trio is one of my favorite comfort combos.

  13. This week we’re making spinach quiche! My two-year-old loves spinach and will eat it in anyway: raw in a salad, stir-fried, in a casserole. He just had green spinach tortillas this weekend haha.
    Sleeping Mom’s last post: “It’s okay”: Why you shouldn’t dismiss your child’s emotions

  14. We;ve been rocking the easy pasta dinners here lately, and I love spinach in mine.
    However, I usually serve it up in green smoothies, because I’m the only one in the hous who likes spinach and pasta :-)
    Steph (The Cheapskate Cook)’s last post: On the Menu: Strawberries & Potato Chips

  15. I can just taste how creamy and perfect this is with the sweet, earthy spinach. Probably one of our favorite ways to enjoy spinach is simply sauteed in a little olive oil with kosher salt, and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Yum!
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: Raspberry Peach Marshmallow Squares

  16. Sounds wonderful! Will definitely put this on the menu as soon as I see fresh spinach coming our way…right now we are “enjoying” a little extra winter so I think we’ll be set back a few weeks. Love the simplicity though; perfect weeknight meal!
    Tracy’s last post: Edamame Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, and a Sweet Honey Dressing

  17. This sounds absolutely delicious and simple. With two little ones, supper time is often a work in progress throughout the day, or something that comes together quickly once my husband comes home from work.
    This is definitely going on my menu plan!! =)
    Breanne’s last post: Sweet Simplicity

  18. Not only is cooked spinach easier to disguise for picky family members (the husband in my case), but it’s actually more nutritious when cooked! Just don’t tell my Dan.
    Casey@Good. Food. Stories.’s last post: The Bar Cart: Negronis and Boulevardiers

  19. I’m definitely digging the ease of this vegetarian dish – it looks so tasty I think even my meat loving Brian would dig right in.
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction’s last post: Giveaway: Keurig Platinum Single-Cup Brewer

  20. I’ve been getting bushels of spinach seconds from a neighboring farm. Lots is getting blanched to freeze for later quiches and green smoothies, but I have a large bag in the fridge waiting to be turned into….this, oh yes.

    I’ve missed hearing your voice—glad you’ll soon be back! (But take your time.)
    Jennifer Jo’s last post: therapy

  21. I love a good one pot meal like this, especially when it involves spinach and ricotta together!
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen’s last post: Magimix by Robot-Coupe Food Processor Review and Giveaway (ARV $500) | The Original Food Processor

  22. Spinach is actually one of the most healthiest vegetables and perfect for kids.. One example of that is the Popeye the Sailor Man.. We can have it as an example for the kids so they are still interested to eat this recipe..
    Kathryn’s last post: cars for sale in stroud

  23. Oh my gosh… This looks SO delicious. I have to admit, I decided to leave spinach out of my garden this year and I’m starting to regret not buying seeds. Really, it’s not too late, so I’m thinking I should pick some up tomorrow and get them started!

    Reading about how simple it is to incorporate such a healthy, wealthy vegetable into dishes gives me just enough motivation. :)
    Jenna’s last post: Getting Taller

  24. This was so delicious! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You were right, this recipe lends very well to add-ins. I made several changes and additions and it was a huge hit. Thank you!!

    • Awesome to hear, Jill! I’d love to know what you stirred in. :)
      Aimee’s last post: Planning what to grow in your backyard vegetable garden

      • 2 cloves minced garlic, 3 tablespoons-ish chicken broth, swapped the shallots for 1/2 leek which I chopped up, added 1 diced (chopped?) Portabello mushroom cap just before I finished the spinach, did the egg AND the cream (I couldn’t resist), and then tossed in some leftover roasted turkey. It was just as good today for lunch. And I will be eating it for dinner too. Honestly, Aimee, this was one of the most raved about meals I’ve ever made. And I am completely shocked my kids ate it, especially with the mushrooms. What a great recipe! Thank you!

  25. I love one dish meals and of course anything with spinach and or pasta. Are you saying I still have time to plant spinach? I have my garden boxes ready.
    angela@spinachtiger’s last post: Chocolate Sour Cream Mini Bundt Cakes

  26. A great recipe! And it really did take 15 minutes! I would love to hear more recipes that really do take 15 minutes…

  27. Michelle Martin says:

    So excited to try this tomorrow night, but what I was most excited about was the name of your daughter! My little Clara is 8 now. Such precious times!!! God Bless!!

  28. Yuliya Pashkova says:

    This is a beautiful recepe. I follow it extacly and was plesantly surprised. My husband really enjoyed it as well. Good job!

  29. This recipe was great!! I also added some white beans for more protein. It was delicious!

  30. This was awesome! Added some chopped garlic, mushrooms and pasta water. Definitely a keeper. Husband said best pasta meal he had in a long time.

  31. This recipe was amazingly delicious, my whole family loved it! I used cream instead of raw egg (not because I am opposed to raw egg, but because I LOVE cream!) I shared this recipe in a recent meal plan on my blog rainbowdelicious.com. I will definitely keep following your blog and look forward to trying more of your great looking recipes, thanks!

  32. This may be completely stupid but I am confused; do we return the pasta, spinach, ricotta and egg into a hot pot and cook it all together after the pasta is drained?

  33. I really liked this recipe. A great meatless meal, which is something I’m trying to do more of lately. I added beans as another commenter suggested.

  34. Made this for the co-workers today…..it was gone BEFORE lunch!!! LOL! The only change I made was putting shredded Parmesan cheese on top-perfecto!!!

  35. Love this recipe – I’m excited for it and am hoping my family will feel the same… I may try it as a side dish to test it out first.

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