Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

by Anne Maxfield on March 23, 2017

Stuffed shells used to be the Wednesday special at the pizza place near my office.

Shells and two sides for $6.50. Couldn’t beat that.

It was a family-run place that was there for years.

No more.

And I don’t think I’ve had stuffed shells since then.

These were in the NY Times recently and it seemed like the right time to give it a try.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • 1 pound baby spinach, rinsed, or 2 pounds bunch spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly
  • Salt
  • 12 ounces giant pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 10 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated, about 1/2 cup
  • Pepper
  • 2 cups marinara sauce

Accidental Locavore Stuffing for Shells

Bring a large pot of well-salted (“it should taste like the sea”) water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cook the spinach until just wilted (about 30 seconds) and transfer to the ice water, then drain. Squeeze out excess water.

Bring the water in the pot back to a boil and add the pasta shells. Cook about 10 minutes, until al dente, drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade chop the garlic. Add the spinach and pulse to chop finely. Add the ricotta and the egg and process until well blended.

Add 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until well blended.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Oil a large baking dish (or two 2-quart dishes), big enough to fit the shells in one layer.

Fill each shell with a scant tablespoon of the filling.

Arrange in a single layer in the baking dish.

Accidental Locavore Stuffed Shells and Sausage

Top with the tomato sauce and cover the dish with foil.

Bake 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan, serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Sauce for Shells

My verdict: Delicious! On Frank’s request, I added some hot Italian sausage that I’d removed from the casing, chunked up and browned.

Because making and stuffing the shells was enough work on a weeknight, I used a Tomato and Italian Olive sauce I was given to try. It’s made in Barcelona by Delicious & Sons, but packed and shipped from Poughkeepsie (more about that and them at a later date). It was well named as it was delicious – a good tomato taste and a nice bite of olive here and there (and once I recycled the jar, no one would know it wasn’t homemade)! All the ingredients are organic and there’s nothing your nonna wouldn’t use. My thanks to Ricky for that and an assortment of other goodies I haven’t had time to enjoy!

Back to the shells. I didn’t have quite a pound of spinach, but I did have a lot of ricotta.

Even with that, I had a ton more shells than stuffing. They’re now in a bag in the freezer, waiting for another batch of stuffing.




A Presidential Dinner

by Anne Maxfield on May 11, 2015

Accidental Locavore Dinner in the White SuiteFollowing the tour of Golf Adriatic, the Accidental Locavore and company went on to explore the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic. Entering the recently built hotel, the lobby is a big open expanse with an inlaid floor and many chandeliers. Downstairs is a large and luxurious spa, with a host of top-notch services. After touring a standard room and junior suite (both lovely, with lots of high-end finishes and the latest in electronics), we went up to the top floor to the white Presidential Suite (the other one, at the opposite end of the hotel is the Black Suite). It’s massive and very white, with columns draped in Swarovski crystals, white couches, white marble everywhere–you get the idea. The floor-to-ceiling glass opens up to an almost equally gigantic terrace. Had it been clearer out, we would have been able to see across the Adriatic to Venice, but we happily settled for the coast of Slovenia.

When we turned around and went back inside, we found a large table set for dinner. It turned out to be the surprise we’d been hearing rumors about all afternoon.

Marko, our guide from the Istrian Tourist Bureau, had worked for the hotel and managed to get Istrian Master Chef Zoran Čobanov of the hotel to prepare one final feast for us. Chef took many of the local products we’d been eating all week and elevated them to the stratosphere!

Accidental Locavore Amuse of RicottaIt started with an amuse of fresh ricotta with three spears of wild asparagus and half a strawberry. The ricotta was creamy and delicious and the slight bitterness of the asparagus was tempered by the sweetness of the cream and strawberry.

Accidental Locavore Tuna CarpaccioFrom there we moved on to the “real” menu. First up was one of the most beautiful presentations of tuna carpaccio I’ve ever seen! Three bars of tuna were centered in a large white bowl surrounded by three drops of beet sauce on the left and three drops of carrot purée on the right. Topping the tuna were some micro greens, dehydrated olives and drops of lime jelly. I was hesitant at first; as you all know, beets are not on my hit parade, but I just ignored the drops on the left and focused on what turned out to be a dish that you just never wanted to finish!

Accidental Locavore Asparagus Soup With Ice CreamFollowing that was a light and refreshing asparagus soup. Making it unique was the Grana Padano ice cream, slowly melting into the soup. It was like the best combination of cheese and cream, but better, way better!

Accidental Locavore Istrian FritajaThat was followed by what was described as an “Istrian new fritaja with black truffle”. I guess that the easy way of describing it would be to call it a deconstructed version of scrambled eggs with black truffle, but that is really an injustice. You were presented with another large white plate with a small dark knob in the center of a creamy, pale yellow sauce, surrounded by truffle shavings. There was a sprinkling of local sea salt and off to the side, some caviar. The knob was actually a mushroom hiding the yolk of an egg. When you cut into the mushroom the yolk was broken and then you spooned the caviar in and mixed it all up. In a trip filled with amazing meals, this is the dish I’ll be dreaming about!

Accidental Locavore Sponge With FishWhen we got through swooning over the fritaja, there was a fish course with a piece of Adriatic fish, toasted and served on a “sepia ink sponge” with tiny clams. Although it doesn’t sound as divine as the rest of the menu and for some the idea of eating a black sponge seemed daunting, the sponge turned out to be an airy piece of bread dyed black with squid ink and topping a perfectly cooked fish filet and sweet clams. Adding a drizzle of the local olive oil made this seemingly simple dish as wonderful as the previous courses.

Accidental Locavore Lemon CreamTo cleanse our palates, the fish was followed by a smooth and refreshing frozen lemon cream. Palates cleansed, we moved on to dessert. What was simply described as “Chocolate cake with olive oil” was anything but!

Accidental Locavore Chocolate DessertRiding on a trail of cream sauce was a chocolate ball, dusted with cocoa. There was a single raspberry, a drop of blueberry sauce, a greenish disc of olive oil and a swirl of the thinnest chocolate cookie. The ball consisted of a chocolate cookie topped with mousse and surrounded by a hard chocolate shell. Taking a taste of each of the elements with the centerpiece, just gave new dimensions to this grand finale.

While this truly memorable evening was created just for us, I’ve been told that some of the dishes (including my favorite–the fritaja) are available in the hotel restaurant Kanova. Or, for an extraordinary evening, you can book the suite, have them recreate our amazing dinner and take your after-dinner drinks in the suite’s rooftop hot tub overlooking the lights of the Adriatic coast. Živjeli!





Tartines With Ricotta and Porcini Mushrooms

by Anne Maxfield on December 12, 2013

Accidental Locavore TartinesTartines are the French equivalent of bruschetta, usually made with leftover baguettes and most often served for breakfast. The Accidental Locavore’s husband saw this recipe and thought it looked interesting so I made it for lunch the other day. It’s pretty easy and easily adaptable. This fed 2.

Accidental Locavore Ricotta Pesto


For the pesto:

  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta

Accidental Locavore Cremini Mushrooms

For the tartines:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup porcini or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ baguette
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 ounce (about ½ cup) grated Gruyere

To make the pesto, put the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pine nuts in the work bowl of a small food processor. Process into a coarse paste. Slowly add the oil and process until combined. Stir in the ricotta.

Preheat the broiler. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.

Cut the baguette in half the long way and toast until lightly toasted. Put on a small baking sheet (or piece of aluminum foil). Spread with the pesto. Top with the mushrooms and grate some fresh nutmeg over them. Add the cheese. Put them under the broiler and cook until the cheese melts. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: This was a really good fall lunch. Not that it was terribly difficult, but to make it easier, I would just use some pesto from the fridge and stir in some ricotta. Any kind of mushrooms would be good and I would probably add a little garlic to them when I cooked them. The original recipe called for cheddar, but I thought Gruyere might be a better match. As I said in the intro, it’s easily adaptable for what you have on hand.


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Accidental Locavore Taste Trekkers ShowAs you may have realized, the Accidental Locavore was recently in Providence, Rhode Island. Part of it was work and part of it was more work, if you can call it that. I was invited to the first Taste Trekker’s Conference, which was being held there. The purpose of it was to tempt people who travel for food (isn’t that all of us?) with destinations and cuisines near and far. Why Providence? Travel & Leisure named it America’s favorite city for food and drink.

It was a three-day event, but I was only able to attend the Saturday events. It started with a welcome address from Providence’s mayor, who amazingly gave everyone not only his Twitter handle, but his cell phone number! Can you imagine Nanny Bloomberg doing the same?

Accidental Locavore Lamb DemoWe then broke into smaller groups for a series of seminars. The first one was watching a lamb being broken down (butchered). It was surprisingly educational to see where everything comes from and I’m always fascinated by professionals with great knife skills (yeah, I know – practice, practice, practice). As he worked, Chef Speidel also explained how he tries to mix the various parts of the lamb when he serves it, so there’s no waste. The lambs came from North Star Sheep Farm which happens to be on the way to my parent’s house in Maine, so there may be a new stop on our next trip.

The next seminar was equally interesting – a look at a local charcuterie producer, Daniele. Did you have any idea that somewhere in Rhode Island there are 250,000 prosciuttos (prosciutti?) aging? Along with the prosciutto, this family business makes a variety of sausages and salamis from family recipes brought over during WWII. All were delicious and well worth seeking out.

Accidental Locavore Slicing ProscuittoFunnily enough, my least favorite seminar was the most educational. Tim Brown told us about his adventures in Madagascar at the chocolate plantation. After more of a (boring) slide show about growing cacao and the people involved, I was regretting my choice until we started tasting the chocolate. Much like wine tasting, Tim taught us the proper way to taste and evaluate chocolate, a skill which came in handy when Julie and I did our tasting.

Accidental Locavore Proscuitto and MozzarellaAfter the seminars, we got to mingle and feast on a large variety of food and purveyors. I was delighted to meet the owners of Narragansett Creamery (the makers of the amazing ricotta in the ravioli at Gracie’s). Speaking of ravioli, there was also pasta to be tasted from one of our friend’s favorite places in Providence, Venda Ravioli.

With all that food tasted, it was no surprise that I didn’t have enough of an appetite for a big dinner at Pot au Feu later. I’m hoping that this first Taste Trekker’s Conference was a success and can’t wait for next year’s! I’ll travel for food anytime, won’t you?