1 package jumbo pasta shells
16 oz mild Italian sausage
3 whole garlic cloves; thinly sliced
1 whole small onion; peeled and thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme
10 oz fresh winter spinach; washed and dried
10 oz Ricotta cheese
2 oz Parmigiano Regianno
2 whole eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
Ingredients for Accompaniment:
3 oz extra virgin olive oil
2-24 oz jars marinara sauce of your choice
3 Tbsp Italian parsley leaves
Boil water in a large pot and cook shells until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Drain from the water and place on a plate.
Over medium heat-sauté the sausage and break it up into small pieces using a wooden spoon. Drain the fat from the pan and set in a separate bowl. Do not discard! Remove the meat from heat and place in a large bowl. Pour a few teaspoons of the fat reserve into the sauté pan and add the garlic and onions. Simmer on medium heat. Lightly season with salt and cover; cook for 3 minutes. Add the thyme and stir. Cook it down until the onions start to caramelize and look golden brown.
Add 2 more teaspoons of reserved fat and the spinach to the pan. Cook until wilted-thoroughly. Drain and cool. Roughly chop the spinach and combine with ricotta cheese, parmigian and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
Method for Stuffing:
Stuff the shells until they are full. Using extra virgin olive oil, lightly rub two 9" x 13" casserole dishes. Put 6 oz. of sauce on the bottom and smooth out evenly. Place shells on sauce, seam side down. Cover with the remaining sauce and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake in oven at 350 F for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.