The following is a guest post by one of my favorite bloggers, Shannon Stonger of Nourishing Days. Shannon takes lovely photos documenting her adventures in off-grid living and sustainability and shares them on her blog. If you want eye-candy for homesteading, along with wisdom gleaned from simplifying her life and homesteading in Texas, check out Nourishing Days.
Spring brings light and dirt under the fingernails and green! From asparagus to scallions to spinach you can expect your market — or better yet garden — to start with these early bright green foods.
This recipe is a grain-free take on the classic comfort food stuffed shells. I completely take out the shell while the spinach-cheese filling transforms into “meatballs” that swim in a sea of meaty tomato sauce.
Best of all, this dish cooks in a large cast-iron skillet, which I use daily, from stove-top to oven.
Grain-Free Stuffed “Shells”
From Simple Food for Spring by Shannon Stonger
(28 grain-free recipes celebrating the freshness of spring)
- 2 teaspoons lard, coconut oil, or tallow (where to buy lard, coconut oil, and tallow)
- 6 oz. Italian sausage or ground meat (where to buy grass-fed & wild meats)
- 2 cups chopped spring onion
- 3 garlic cloves or scapes, minced
- 2 quarts home-canned tomatoes or about 7 cups diced tomatoes in juice (where to find BPA-free canned tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon butter (where to find grass-fed butter)
- 1 3/4 lb. spinach
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (where to buy grass-fed parmesan cheese)
- 1/4 cup very lightly packed basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1/4-1/2 cup grated cheese (parmesan, cheddar, or mozzarella) (where to find GMO-free cheddar, parmesan, & mozzarella)
1. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. (I actually use this 3-in-1 cast iron combo cooker.) Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet and add spinach a bit at a time until it all fits into the pan. Season with sea salt and pepper and cook until completely wilted and most of the liquid has cooked off. Remove from pan and set in a clean towel-lined sieve placed over a bowl.
2. Pour off any additional liquid and return skillet to a medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons cooking fat and sausage or ground meat. If using ground meat season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until browned and fat is rendered. Add onion and sauté a few minutes or until tender. Add garlic and sauté one more minute.
3. Pour in tomatoes, turn heat to medium, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until sauce is nice and thick. (This time can vary depending on the tomatoes that you use). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the “filling”. Take the spinach that is draining in a towel-lined sieve, lift all four corners of towel to form a handle. Twist towel ends, squeezing spinach out over the sink until all signs of liquid are gone. This could take several minutes, but it is the most important step so it is worth the effort.
5. Pour off any liquid from the bowl beneath the towel-lined sieve. Add the squeezed spinach to this bowl along with ricotta, minced garlic, parmesan, minced basil leaves, and parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Once well-seasoned add the beaten egg and mix well.
6. Once both the sauce and the filling are ready it is time to assemble the dish for baking. Form little balls with your hands out of 1-2 tablespoons of cheese mixture. Place cheese ―balls‖ closely together in tomato sauce-filled skillet with about 1/4—1/2 coming above the edge of the sauce. You will probably have to tuck the last few in here and there so don’t worry too much about them overlapping.
7. Dot the dish all over with bits of the 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with 1/4—1/2 cup of cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese turns golden brown.
Shannon Stonger lives with her husband and three children on their two acre off-grid homestead. She’s a cook and fermented foods enthusiast, a chicken wrangler and a seed planter, a helpmeet and a homemaker, a freelance writer and picture-taker with a focus on sustainable living.
She writes about all of the above on her blog, Nourishing Days.
This recipe was taken from her beautifully-photographed book, Simple Food For Spring.
If you haven’t already taken a look at her Simple Food cookbook series, may I suggest you do so? You won’t be disappointed!