Though I always do my best to find creative uses for all of the produce that we get each week, this year I have definitely started to have my fill of a few things – especially mini orange peppers and collard greens. I’ve never been much of a greens person, so that’s always one of my big CSA challenges. We get kale, chard, collards, and lots of varieties of lettuce. While they may all be good for me, I have to admit that I usually end up going back to the same things over and over when it comes to cooking with them.
One of my tried and true flavor combinations for greens is to pair them with spicy Italian sausage. I know I’m not the first person to utilize that flavor combo and I’m certain that I won’t be the last, either. Though I have revisited the flavors a few times (like this butternut quiche a few weeks ago…), I do try to find ways to incorporate the flavors into new dishes.
This time around I settled on some stuffed shells. I had a box of jumbo shells in my pantry that has been just waiting to be put to good use. I always enjoy making stuffed shells because they freeze so beautifully. Once frozen, they are ready and waiting for an easy weeknight meal (and they don’t even need to be defrosted before they are baked!). What could be better for a cold evening or a busy night?
Sausage and Collards Stuffed Shells
(Makes approximately 8 servings)
- 1 – 12 ounce box of jumbo shells
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 pounds hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 bunch (about 10 ounces) collard greens, thick stems removed and chopped
- 1 – 15 ounce container of part skim ricotta cheese
- 1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 egg
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground Pepper
- Marinara Sauce
- Additional cheese for sprinkling on top (Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzerella, or your favorite)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Cook the shells according to the package directions, drain, and set aside.
Meanwhile, brown the sausage in the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the sausage has cooked, add the onion and continue to cook until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Gradually stir in the chopped collards and wilt them into the sausage mixture. Cook just until the collards have wilted down and are bright green, an additional 4 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
While the sausage mixture cools, stir together the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and egg. Add the sausage mixture and season with salt and pepper. Stir to fully incorporate the sausage mixture into the ricotta.
Fill the cooked shells with the ricotta and sausage mixture (I find that a disposable piping bag with the tip cut off works perfectly for this!). Arrange the filled shells in the baking dish and top with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes until bubbly.
Alternately, if you plan to freeze the shells, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer overnight. Once the shells have frozen, remove them from the baking sheet and transfer them to freezer bags or tupperware containers.
When you are ready to bake the frozen shels, simply remove the shells from the bag/container and place them in a baking dish. Top with marinara sauce and cheese, and bake until bubbly. Frozen shells will most likely take closer to 60 minutes to bake.