Monday, March 10, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Shells

When I started blogging and poking around the food blog world, I discovered a fun little thing that I wanted to be a part of:  the Secret Recipe Club.  In essence, it's a group of food bloggers who are assigned each other's blogs in secret and then all post at the same time and reveal what they made at the same time.  A fun way to read other people's blogs and see what they make.  And try new things too.  I was intrigued.  You can find all the details and rules here on the Secret Recipe Club's website.
But there are rules:  you need to keep an index; you need to take your own pictures; you need to give proper credit; but the most daunting was the 100 recipe minimum.  It took a while, but when I reached 100 recipes I made sure I was in compliance with the rest of the rules and filled out the form to join.
I think that was most of a year ago.  I don't remember exactly when I sat down and made sure things were in order - but I'm pretty sure I set up the index over March Break last year.  It was a long wait, but a few weeks ago I was invited to join!  So exciting!  I'm thrilled to be joining Group A for the first time!
The blog I was assigned was Why I Am Not Skinny.  Maxine is a South African expat living in Belgium. I love Belgium. Almost as much as France, but not quite.  Spending a year in Flanders will do that to you.  France is a place where I learned to eat - and took my cooking in a totally different direction.  I made stuffed chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for my host families, and learned to make good Bechamel and Tarte Tatin.
I went through lots of recipes on Maxine's blog, thinking I'd actually get to use the measuring cup I brought back with me from France 20 years ago, and then I found something that looked so good.  When I read the title to J, he was all in.
I present to you now my inaugural Secret Recipe Club post from Why I am Not Skinny, Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells:

20 Jumbo Pasta Shells
1 recipe of Creamy Spinach
4 oz bacon, finely chopped
4 Tbsp butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Red onions, chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1 c milk
4 oz Sharp Cheese
1/4 c Seasoned Panko crumbs

1.  Cook pasta to al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.
2.  Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet, adding garlic and onion.  Cook until onion is soft and add chopped bacon.  Cook until bacon is cooked through.  Remove from heat, and add creamed spinach.
3.  Stuff shells with spinach mixture and place in 9" pan.  Preheat oven to 350F.
4.  Make cheese sauce:  In a saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter.  Add flour to make a roux and cook, 3-4 minutes.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, to ensure that there are no lumps.  Add 3/4 of the cheese, stirring until melted.  Pour over shells.
5.  Sprinkle with Panko and shredded cheese.
6.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
Adapted (slightly) from Why I am Not Skinny

Maxine's recipe was in metric.  As a good Canadian who lives along the longest undefended border in the world who is married to an American, I go back and forth between metric and imperial all the time.  I did the imperial conversions for those of us in North America who don't have metric temperatures on our ovens.  Here's the cheese I used:  leftovers from Valentine's.  One piece is smoked Applewood Cheddar, the other has the word Merlot in its name...I don't remember.  But it's kind of a parmesan/cheddar cross.  It's delicious.
This is a recipe that will take every pot you own, especially if you make your own creamed spinach.  J was shocked by how many dishes I created - and I tried to use dishwasher safe things and reuse pots as I could.  It's worth the effort.  Trust me.
I chopped the onion fairly fine, and used my kitchen shears to chop the bacon finely as well.  I buy my bacon in a large block and freeze it on waxed paper to use as needed.  Frozen bacon is easy to cut.  I cut lengthwise in 3, and then into small bits.
But this smelled so good!  There was a little bit leftover that I tossed with cooked pasta and took for lunch a couple of days later for lunch.  It was amazing too.  When you look at the ingredients, how can you go wrong?
I filled the shells FULL.  I got 20 in a 9" baking pan.  I think that they would have been good with just shredded cheese over the top, but...
...gilding the lily with cheese sauce isn't a bad thing.
Then I sprinkled with Panko, topped with shredded cheese, and popped them in the oven.
Utterly delicious.  Four was all I wanted.  I would make these again for a dinner with guests.
Join me in the blog hop!  See who made something from here for dinner!!


  1. SO glad that you liked the recipe.... and that it falls into the "make again" category!!

  2. This looks heavenly and easy enough to make on a busy weeknight. Great choice for the SRC! We are so happy to have you join us Sarah!

  3. Fantastic, we're going to Italy this year and this is making me more inspired.

  4. Bacon, butter, cheese AND creamed spinach? I would swoon over just one stuffed shell, but plate me half a dozen please.

  5. This looks delicious. I love the use of spinach in this recipe. I can't believe I've never made stuffed shells before. Bookmarked to try out soon!

  6. Comfort food at its best. Looks absolutely delicious!

  7. This looks so so so good! Will have to make this at our house sometime.