Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Shells - A Lesson in Leftovers

I love cooking with leftovers, and this artichoke and spinach stuffed shells recipe is a perfect example of why. There's something very satisfying about turning a dish of tired leftovers into a vibrant new creation. It's also great exercise for your cooking muscles, which should never be confused with your following-a-recipe muscles.

When you follow a recipe, you're tying to manipulate food into something fabulous that fits some beautifully idyllic description, or looks like some photoshop'd picture in a cookbook. When you're cooking with leftovers, you don't have as lofty of a goal. In fact, your usually just trying to keep something from going straight into the bin.

Much like a sports team that has nothing to lose, and plays great because of their free and easy attitude, the same thing often happens when cooking with leftovers. In fact, if I weren't so jetlagged, I'd come up with some brilliant metaphor for living life with this same approach.

Due to dangerously high quantities of food at our Super Bowl party (by the way, how 'bout dem bones!), I found myself with a significant amount of leftover spinach artichoke dip. I've always enjoyed spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta shells, so I thought I'd see if I could turn this fairly unattractive dish of food into something slightly less unattractive.

As you'll see from the video, I think I succeeded. The would have been too long had I included the making of the béchamel sauce, but we've done that one many times, and you can see that recipe video here. I just made a standard batch of white sauce, and tossed in a handful of grated Gruyere.

Anyway, I hope this video inspires you to take a look around the fridge, and fearlessly, and without any grand expectations, make something into something else. Enjoy!

Technical Note: Do not adjust your monitors! This was filmed at my mom's home on a dark winter's day, so the lighting is not very good. Although, it is kind of fitting for the subject.

Artichoke and Spinach Stuffed Shells Ingredients:
(recommended as a side dish)
3 cups leftover spinach artichoke dip
1 generous cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
juice from one lemon
1 box jumbo shells
1 batch béchamel sauce with 1 cup of grated cheese added to it at the end
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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