I have made spinach and ricotta stuffed shells a dozen times. We love this recipe. It’s a Sunday family dinner type of recipe. But this time it was so much more than a recipe- it was an experience, it was an opportunity to serve.
My friend Meghan is the kind of mom that always has 10 projects and ideas going at the same time and somehow, without missing a beat, executes them all perfectly. Top that off with the most calming demeanor and supportive smile. She is wonderful. I’m so glad I get to call her my friend. When I told her I was starting Mom’s Dinner she was so excited. She had the perfect project coming up to collaborate Mom’s Dinner with her organization Outreach JoCo. We would work together to provide a dinner at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City. I could plan the meal and procure the food. She could round up volunteers excited to do good in Kansas City communities. This was a no-brainer. I get to work with my friend and volunteer for this wonderful charity! This is a win-win, I couldn’t wait!
Saying yes was the easy part! The next steps, planning and logistics, were up to me. I needed to come up with a meal plan that was delicious, but easy enough to execute in a 2 hour window for 80 people. I had to reach deep and recall some of my past catering days. The only problem, I didn’t do the cooking or calculating back then! I am a home cook that prepares meals for 4 on a regular basis. I mean, I have done holidays and family get togethers for maybe 18 people… but not 80!! Even though it was a big group and I was nervous about getting the recipe and amounts correct I did not want to do an easy dinner- tacos, spaghetti, or chicken. It had to be better than that. It was so important for me to get this right for these families who literally need this food to face another day in the hospital. I decided on a dinner that my family loves and that I knew we could execute in the time we had:
- Ricotta & Spinach Stuffed Shells
- Green Beans
- Caesar Salad
- Super Buttery Garlic Bread
- (and of course cookies for dessert)
The day was finally here and I was so excited to volunteer. We loaded the car with groceries and headed downtown. When we pulled up I was awestruck by the Ronald McDonald Homes! They were beautiful! One looks like a really modern apartment complex(Longfellow). The other is a huge 4 story craftsman/georgian home (Wylie). I couldn’t wait to get started. The lady that worked the Wylie House front desk could not have been more helpful and kind. She was so thankful that we were there and guided us to the kitchen. I was blown away! It was huge.. I mean catering kitchen huge, and modern, and beautiful. We dropped off our groceries, organized the work spaces and made our way to the second location. At the Longfellow House we were greeted with another warm smile and kind words of appreciation. This kitchen was just as impressive with 4 ovens, 4 cooktops, 2 islands, 4 dishwashers and 4 sinks! I couldn’t wait to work in this huge space.
As everyone started to arrive I knew everything was going to be great! The volunteers all washed their hands, rolled up their sleeves and said “what needs to be done”. For the next 2 hours I worked alongside amazing families and friends: a wonderfully kind family of four, a tall handsome man and his beautiful girlfriend, 2 awesome moms and their amazing daughters, and my sweet husband and daughter. We all stirred, whisked, stuffed, and sauteed until dinner was complete. The food was laid out right on time. We did it- Success!
As the residents began to arrive I was jolted back to reality remembering the purpose of our time in this kitchen. I began to consider what these families go through every single day and the tough reality they are facing. I’m so thankful there is a place like Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City where they can rest and recharge. To find out more about how you can help this wonderful organization or volunteer your time click here.
A huge THANK YOU goes to Outreach JoCo for organizing this opportunity and to the volunteers for giving your time!
Outreach JoCo is an organization that connects people throughout Johnson County (Kansas) to help support and create opportunities to make our corner of the world a better place. A message that I can get behind 100%! If you would like more info on Outreach JoCo or would like to find volunteer opportunities visit them on facebook here.
Most of the photographs in this post were taken by the amazingly talented Mindy Nickles. Thank you, Mindy, for not only volunteering your time but for sharing your pictures with me. For more information on her beautiful craft you can visit her on facebook here.
This was an experience I will NEVER forget. If someone asks you to volunteer at RMH, GO, you won’t regret it!
Like I said in the beginning this was about so much more than a recipe. But I still hope you will try Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells in your kitchen!
- 8 oz jumbo shells (about 20 shells)
- 1 jar marinara (24-26 oz)
- 1 egg
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 6 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of liquid
- ½ t garlic powder
- ½ t dried basil
- ½ t dried oregano
- ½ t salt
- ¼ t red pepper flakes, more if you like it spicy
- Boil the jumbo shells according to package directions (should be about 9 minutes).
- In a large bowl beat 1 egg, add the ricotta, 1½ cups mozzarella, ½ cup parmesan, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Using your hands or a clean kitchen towel squeeze the liquid out of the thawed spinach. Crumble it into the cheese mixture. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- In a 9x13 pan spread half the marinara evenly over the bottom.
- Using a spoon fill the boiled and cooled pasta shells to the top with the ricotta mixture. Lay them in rows on top of the marinara in the 9x13 pan.
- Pour the remaining marinara over top of the shells. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup parmesan and ½ cup mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.