Camper Cooking: Spinach Stuffed Shells in the Convection Microwave Oven (Vegetarian)

I have an additional cooking theme besides vegetarian and healthy. It’s “Shane loves this!” 🙂 I love to cook, and Shane loves what I cook because “it’s made with love.” He swears he can taste it, and it’s delicious.

Tonight I’m making spinach stuffed shells. As I gathered my I ingredients, I realized I didn’t bring any basil or oregano or marjoram or parsley or any Italian blend of spices! I also forgot to buy the fresh mozzarella balls. *sigb* I blame my headache. But, nonetheless, dinner will be fine anyway. I would recommend you not leave out the spices or fresh mozzarella balls though.

Other than those mentioned, you’ll need jumbo pasta shells, one egg, bag of shredded mozzarella, tub of spinach, 15 ounce tub of ricotta cheese (the Giant Eagle doesn’t carry the Organic Valley or Kroger’s Simple Truth brands), and your favorite tomato sauce. I prefer a homemade tomato sauce with red wine and fresh basil but no fresh homegrown tomatoes available in February, and fresh jarred sauce never lasts too long in the pantry!

While you boil the shells, steam your spinach. While your spinach steams, beat the egg in a bowl then mix in the ricotta. If you didn’t forget your spices or chopped fresh mozzarella, sprinkle and dump those in now and stir.

Squeeze out the excess water from your spinach and add it to the ricotta mixture. Stir it all together for a beautiful swirl.

Only cook the shells until al dente (cooked but with firm texture). They’ll retain their shape when stuffing them and will cook further in the sauce.

You’ll fill half your pan or Corning bakeware (I can’t fit a 9×13 pan) with sauce. If you want saucier shells, you can cook the rest on the stove and ladle more on your plate.

Drain the shells and allow them to cool before handling them. I have the coolest pot. It has its own colander lid! No need to store a space greedy straining bowl.

Ahem..back to your regular scheduled recipe. 🙂

Spoon in as much spinach ricotta mixture as you can into your shells.

Place as many as you can into the saucy cauldron. Then wash your hands. 🙂

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. The whole bag. Don’t chintz on cheesy goodness.

In a convectional oven, you need to elevate your dish so the warm air can circulate beneath it for even cooking. A convection microwave oven has a fan and exhaust system a conventional oven does not. Supposedly this means shorter cooking times. Also if you’re looking at recipes for conventional ovens, you need to set the temperature 25*F lower for convection ovens.

I’m not sure if that’s 100% true for my tiny camper convection microwave oven. I feel like I have to cook things longer. Maybe it’s the size of the fan and amps that matter. Size matters. 😉

Conventional recipes say to bake at 350* for 30 minutes. I always bake until cheese is very brown. I think that’s longer than 30 minutes. More like 45-60. This is why fresh mozzarella stuffed in the shells is divine. You get both velvety gooey cheese and the crunchy cheese we like. Each to their own! I mean I ❤ burnt chocolate chip cookies too. LOL

But our camper’s convection microwave oven doesn’t like to melt and brown the cheese. :/ Not even after an hour and a half! So much for 3 times faster. Seems to be our unique problem. But this is the second u satisfactory cheese melting. Problem with our camper’s unit since we have problems with its water heater, TV DVD player, seams…? Not sure, but it’s frustrating.

But it still tasted good. I missed the fresh mozzarella balls, but Shane didn’t notice. Guess that’s a plus. I wonder how the spinach stuffed shells would turn out in the Instant Pot? Hmmmm…

Ingredients

  • Jumbo shells (9 for my Corning casserole dish)
  • Half jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • Fresh spinach
  • 15 ounce tub of ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • Italian spices
  • Fresh mozzarella balls
  • Shredded mozzarella (optional)

Bake at 325*F (350*F conventional oven) for 30 minutes. Serve with garlic bread.

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