My craving for all things saucy, cheesey and carby this weekend got me thinking about my one and only trip to New York City and a dinner a couple of my gals and I had in Little Italy. During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to go to NYC over spring break. For 2 hours of credit. Um, I signed up quicker than a New York minute. What a great way to spend spring break and earn some points toward graduation!
(Most of ;)) that trip was A-MAZ-ING. I had so much fun! Of course, our professor was so rattled by the behavior of some (not me, I swear. I swear, not me! I was NOT a troublemaker) that he vowed he was never taking students on that trip again. Perhaps more structured activities in the evening would have been a good idea, instead of turning 20 immature and rowdy college students loose in Manhattan, but hindsight’s 20/20, right? 😉
Anyway, one night a couple of friends and I were wandering around Little Italy in an awful, horrible, cold March rain. We were tired of walking, soaked to the bone, and freezing. Not to mention starving. We decided the next restaurant we saw, we’d go in and eat because we couldn’t stand walking anymore. We stumbled on a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place that was practically deserted. Hell if I can remember the name. We went inside, sat down and were immediately approached by a hilarious waitress who pulled up a chair and sat right on down to join us at the table and asked where we were from. She told us dirty jokes and made fun of us three blond haired, blue eyed very un-Italian looking girls. When she got up to bring us food and drinks, every time she walked by she’d yell at the top her lungs and her thick New York accent – “Twalk to me, Illinoi-sssss!” Complete with a hissing “s” on the end. Best.Dinner.Ever. What a blast!
So I guess Iowa is pretty far removed from NYC and Little Italy, but luckily the ingredients to put together some yummy Italian fare is available everywhere. More importantly, they are usually available in my fridge/pantry. I was looking for something easy to throw together using some stuff I had hanging around in the house. The result: turkey Italian sausage and spinach stuffed shells with quick kicked up tomato sauce. Easy and comforting. Totally hit the spot.
ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE AND SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS WITH QUICK KICKED UP TOMATO SAUCE (Recipe source: This recipe came from me tossing together what I had in the house. I’m sure there are similar out there, but I really didn’t consult any sources before I put this together.)
‘Scuse the sloptastic photo, please. These types of dishes are never pretty on a plate. That’s just the way it is!
- 1/2 box of jumbo shell pasta
- 3 links sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you like. I like mine HOT!)
- 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese (I always use part skim)
- 1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess moisture
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- In a large pot of boiling water cook pasta until al dente (you can add a splash of olive oil if you are worried about them sticking together, but I just used a big enough pot so they had enough room to move around and had no problems.)
- In a large skillet, break up the sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink. Toss into a bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in the same skillet. Add onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Add tomato, s&p, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
- To the sausage add ricotta, spinach and parmesam cheese, stir to combine. Scoop rounded tablespoons of mixture into pasta shells. Place in a greased 9X13 inch pan, cover with sauce, top with mozzarella cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and the cheese melts.