I love sausage. Like, to the point that most people love bacon. I only ever cook bacon to get the drippings for cooking with. I would rather have sausage any day of the week.
And I really love Italian sausage. So I had the idea to make these shells. And I knew I wanted to add spinach. I’d usually serve stuffed shells with marinara or some other red sauce but sausage and spinach just go with cream sauce.
Now, all that being said, you could totally skip the Garlic Cream Sauce below and just use marinara sauce. Or you could even use prepared alfredo sauce instead. But this sauce is super simple and easy and packs an amazing punch of fresh, homemade flavor. And, it’s really frickin easy.
Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells with Garlic Cream Sauce
10 ounces jumbo shells (approximately 20-25 shells)
1.25 pounds hot Italian sausage, casings removed if applicable
1 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Salt & pepper to taste
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Garlic Cream Sauce:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed (not minced)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Prepare Garlic Cream Sauce first so that it can be doing its thing while you’re cooking everything else. Add cream and smashed garlic to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally (to smash your garlic, just lay your chef’s knife over each clove and give it a good whack or two). Once sauce begins to simmer, add salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in parmesan cheese and continue cooking over low heat for 1-2 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken a little. Remove from heat until ready to use. Sauce will be thin – not like a thick alfredo sauce.
Cook shells in liberally salted water per manufacturer’s instructions for al dente preparation (you don’t want them to be too soft as they will continue cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, crumble sausage in a large skillet and cook until nicely browned. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and place in a large mixing bowl. Add drained spinach to sausage and stir well. And when I say “drained” I really mean it. I usually have to wring it out with my hands to get all the water out of it. Add 2 cups mozzarella, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
Spray a 13x9 (or 14x10) baking dish with cooking spray. Stuff shells with sausage mixture and arrange in baking dish. If you have any sausage mixture left over, just spoon it in between the shells. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of mozzarella over shells. Fish garlic pieces out of garlic cream sauce then spoon sauce over and into stuffed shells. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Rest dish, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.