Tender shrimp in creamy bechamel sauce served over pasta tubes stuffed with the most delicious spinach ricotta filling. This is the perfect recipe for your next holiday gathering or Sunday supper with the family. And if you're looking for the perfect ricotta filling for your homemade lasagna dish or ravioli, you've found it!
Lasagna and ricotta stuffed jumbo pasta shells were classic holiday dishes in my house growing up. Usually served with ground beef or sweet Italian sausage, these dinner party dishes were rich and memorable.
Today, I'm keeping everything I loved about those classics (hello, creamy ricotta filling!) and adding the perfect pescatarian touch by including succulent shrimp in creamy bechamel over our stuffed cannelloni with the best spinach ricotta cheese mixture.
Make the entire dish, or steal the ricotta filling recipe and use it in your next Italian classic. Either way, save this great recipe to your favorites for planning future special occasions!
What you'll need to make this fresh ricotta filling with spinach and shrimp cannelloni:
- Oven-ready cannelloni shells
- Fresh spinach, cooked and drained
- Fresh garlic
- Whole milk ricotta
- Fresh basil
- Egg yolks
- Lemon zest
- Kosher salt, black pepper and white pepper
- All purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Dry sherry (optional)
Full measurements and directions included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for this easy recipe:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare white sauce. Melt butter in a skillet or sauce pan. Add flour and whisk to combine, cooking for about 2 minutes, but not allowing the roux to brown. Add milk, one cup at a time, whisking to combine between additions. When the final cup of milk is added, season the creamy white sauce with salt, white pepper and dry sherry, and allow the sauce to come up to a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat.
Next, prepare the cheese mixture. In a mixing bowl, combine the wilted spinach, minced garlic cloves, whole milk ricotta, parmesan, sliced basil, egg yolks, salt, black pepper and lemon zest. Stir well to combine.
Pour a half cup of the sherry béchamel sauce into the bottom of a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Fill oven-ready cannelloni tubes with spinach ricotta filling and nestle into the sauce. (I find this easiest to accomplish using a pastry bag or a zip top freezer bag with a small hole cut in the corner)
Pour two cups of the sauce over the top of the cannelloni, reserving one cup of sherry cream sauce. Sprinkle the top of the cream sauce covered pasta with the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil, then transfer to the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and broil for the final 2-3 minutes until the shells are tender and the top is browned.
Before serving, add 12 ounces of shrimp and ½ teaspoon salt to the remaining cup of sherry cream sauce. Heat gently until shrimp is fully cooked and the sauce is warmed through. Remove the crushed garlic clove.
To serve, spoon a few tablespoons of the reserved sherry cream sauce onto each plate and place stuffed cannelloni over the sauce. Then top with shrimp in cream sauce. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
Yes, this ricotta recipe can be used in place of plain ricotta cheese in your next classic lasagna night. It would also be delicious inside homemade ravioli.
Any melty, stringy type of cheese will do. My favorite Italian friends use Swiss cheese in their lasagna filling recipe, and that would be delicious here, as would fontina. If you're out of parmesan, asiago or pecorino romano cheeses would each be a good substitute, as well.
This mixture contains raw egg yolks, which require cooking. The yolks add richness to the mixture and help the creamy cheese hold together inside baked pastas. If you're planning to serve a dollop of the filling over prepared pasta or on ricotta toasts, I recommend mixing the ricotta, lemon zest, basil, salt and pepper and whipping with a whisk to achieve an airy texture. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve!
If you have any additional pasta shells, feel free to stuff and bake. This mixture would also be delicious piped into a mushroom cap or mini-pepper with some additional fresh herbs over the top.
If you're out of the fresh options, start with a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder, then taste and adjust seasoning (before adding the egg yolks). If you don't have fresh basil, I would skip it rather than use dried basil. Or substitute fresh parsley in place of basil.
To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Cooked cannelloni can be frozen for up to a month. To thaw, move to the refrigerator the day before you plan to serve, and let the dish slowly defrost.
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