Unstuffed Shells

Aired May 15, 2013

Serves 6
1 16-ounce bag organic, frozen spinach, defrosted
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Nutmeg, to taste
1 pound medium shell pasta (about 1-inch shells dry)
1 1/2 cups fresh sheeps milk or cows milk ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 pound mozzarella, diced or shredded
1 cup shredded Pecorino (sheeps milk) or Parmigiano-Reggiano (cows milk) cheese

Wring spinach dry in a clean dishtowel. Separate with fingers to loosen.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat broiler.

Heat the olive oil, a turn of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Melt butter into oil; when it foams, add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and stir 3-5 minutes to soften. Stir in flour 1 minute or so. Whisk in milk and let thicken; season with nutmeg to taste and reduce heat to low to keep warm.

Salt boiling water and cook shells to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy liquid and add to milk sauce to thin it a bit. Add spinach to pasta pot to heat, stir then drain pasta and spinach and toss with sauce; adjust salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in a casserole dish and dot with ricotta cheese mixed with lemon zest and thyme. Top with mozzarella and grated cheese, and broil until brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

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