Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach

I may or may not have mentioned this in a previous post (that's how long it's been since I've updated my blog...shameful, I know) but my wonderful mother brought an extra special suitcase full of goodies when she made the trip to Shreveport in February. What was in that suitcase, you might ask? Everything I could possibly want from my favorite Italian grocery store in Milwaukee. If you live in or near the city, check out Glorioso's on Brady Street! She brought the works-fresh ricotta, sweet Italian sausage, pancetta, prosciutto di parma, hot capicollo, and more. Yes, I'm one lucky girl! I initially used half of the pancetta in my favorite spaghetti alla carbonara recipe, but I still had half a pound of pancetta left over. I wanted to try something new, and since I've never really cooked with shells before, I decided to give this recipe of Giada's a try.

I really enjoyed it, although I could only eat two shells at every serving-it was THAT rich. I'm sure by now this goes without saying, but I used four cloves of garlic as opposed to the one Giada has listed in her recipe. Sorry pumpkin, but one clove of garlic ain't gonna cut it.
Source: Food Network



  • 1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated asiago cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the shells:

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

3. Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. 
4. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl.

5. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
6. Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the sauce:

7.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

8. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
9. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved.
10.  Pour the sauce over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese.
11.  Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.


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