Mmmmmm. When I was little, my mom sometimes made jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a mixture of diced mushrooms, ricotta cheese, spinach, and ground meat. They were fantastic, but a little too creamy for my taste. These, on the other hand, are not creamy at all and are every bit as good as my mom’s. They taste especially excellent with a nice hunk of Italian bread and olive oil.
When I make them, I sub out the ground pork for ground beef because I usually don’t have ground pork lying around. You can probably use frozen spinach if you want, but the fresh spinach really makes a tremendous difference. Also, I normally leave out the nutmeg—you can’t taste it in the final product, and I’m not a big nutmeg fan, anyway.
I also cut down on sodium and fat a little bit by replacing the heavy cream with light cream or milk (works just fine) and omitting the salt altogether (usually, the tomato sauce will provide all the saltiness you need).
You can coat the bottom of the pan with the tomato sauce like the recipe recommends, but I prefer to drizzle it over the tops of the unbaked pasta shells—it looks better, and it’s a guarantee that you’ll get some tomato taste with each shell. Better yet—don’t use pureed spaghetti-type tomato sauce at all. Instead, make your own chunky tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes, onions, and a little bit of tomato paste or regular tomato sauce.
Oh, and I usually make eight or nine stuffed shells instead of just six. Trust me—it’s a struggle to stop after just three.