This afternoon, I had to make a meal for our dinner group. This group of friends have been meeting for almost monthly meals for the past 30 years. We each bring a dish to share at our monthly meals. For this meal, it was my turn to bring the main dish. Since this has been a busy weekend, I decided to make it simple. I picked out a dish that we had made a few weeks ago when Theodore was still running cross-country. It came from the September 2013 issue of Rachel Ray magazine, Unstuffed Florentine Shells. To help me with the meal, I recruited Theodore and my mother. It made for reducing the time for prep significantly. I also made enough of the casserole for us to enjoy this coming Friday since Paula will be sleeping all day and having to go to work again that night.
If you are interested in trying this dish, here is what you need to do. Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, over medium. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter into the oil and when it foams, add 1 small finely chopped onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes to soften. Stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook another minute. Whisk in 2 cups milk and cook until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of nutmeg and reduce heat to low.
Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta to al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and add to the sauce to thin a bit. Add 1 bag of fresh spinach to the sauce and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the noodles and arrange in a casserole dish. Dot 1 1/2 cups of ricotta. Top with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella and 1 cup of pecorino-romano (or parmesan) cheese and broil until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
When I served it up for our friends at dinner group, everyone loved it! I made so much that there were some leftovers. I left them for my friends Carl and Eve to enjoy later this week since I had already made another batch that was sitting in our refrigerator at home.