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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stuffed Shells with Lentil Ragout and Spinach

Stuffed Shells with Lentil Ragout and Spinach

When my sister tried this recipe she really liked it. She omitted the lentils (which takes the place of ground beef), since she couldn't talk her mom (my step-mom) into trying the recipe with them. Just like my mom, sometimes you pick you battles. When you have a picky eater (myself included) you modify recipes to fit your tastes.... Happy eating everyone!

1 small cinnamon stick
1/4 medium-size onion, peeled but left intact, plus 1/2 onion minced
1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
3 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 package jumbo pasta shells (about 20 pieces)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-size carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
2 1/2 cups tomato puree
1/4 tsp cayenne
Ground black pepper
4 cups spinach, washed thoroughly, stems removed and finely chopped
Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

1. Bring 1 cup water to a boil with cinnamon stick and the intact 1/4 onion in a small saucepan. Add the lentils, cover and lower the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon and onion. Add 1/2 tsp of the salt and stir.

2. In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and 2 teaspoons of the salt and cook for 12 minutes; the shells will still be a little tacky. Drain and transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Untangle the shells to prevent sticking.

3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the carrot, celery, the minced 1/2 onion, and garlic. Stir and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and thyme, allowing the wine to reduce for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cayenne, stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lentils and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Add the reamining 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper, and taste, adding more as you see fit. Discard the thyme sprig, if using fresh. Stir in the spinach, turn off the heat, and cover.

4. Heat the oven to 350F. Ladle a small amount of ragout into a square or rectangular baking dish. Line up the shells in dish, then with a small spoon, fill each shell with the ragout. Top off the shells with a ladleful of ragout, followed by cheese, if using. Bake for 30 minutes.



  1. We love this recipe! Two of us almost finished the entire pan in one sitting. We managed to stop eating just before our stomachs burst! This recipe is so full of flavor. I stayed true to the recipe except for the garlic and onions. My daughter doesn't like the texture of onions so I pureed an onion slice in the tomato puree, and I tossed in 5 small garlic cloves with it. This is in addition to the three garlic cloves that were sauteed in the pan with the veggies. Also, using puree instead of sauce, the recipe seemed a bit dry, so during the cooking I added another 1/4 cup of the red wine and a 1/4 cup of water. That gave it the consistency that prevented it from drying out in the oven. Next time, I plan to double the amount of stuffing so that I can overfill the shells, eating more lentils and less pasta. Then we might not be so inclined to eat 3/4 of the pan in one sitting! :-) Thanks for such a tasty recipe!

    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the recipe! Nice additions! :)

  2. This recipe is identical to Kim O'Donnel's "Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook."

    1. I'll have to check it out. I found this one years ago on website. Maybe they found it there.