Creamy Spinach and Gorgonzola Sauce with Large Shells

Recipe courtesy of Chef Thomas Horner of Seattle’s Hook & Plow.

This recipe features a tangy Gorgonzola cheese sauce brightened by fresh spinach.

3 pounds Barilla Large Shells
9 cups milk
9 tablespoons all-purpose flour
9 tablespoons butter
30 ounces gorgonzola cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
9 pounds fresh spinach
2 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
3 cloves finely minced garlic
as needed salt
12 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cook the Barilla pasta for half the time indicated on the package. Drain pasta and drizzle with some olive oil to prevent from sticking. Place pasta flat on sheet trays or hotel pans and cool in a blast chiller. Alternatively, cool it down in a walk-in cooler. Store in zip lock bags or sealed plastic container; refrigerate and use within several hours.
  2. In a pot, heat the milk until hot but not boiling.
  3. In another pot, combine the flour and butter and stir over medium heat until it has bubbled for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t let the flour brown. Begin to add the hot milk gradually while whisking vigorously. Contine until all the milk is incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to look like heavy cream. Crumble in the Gorgonzola, whisking until smooth. Stir in the nutmeg and pepper. Let cool and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Blanch the spinach for 1 to 2 minutes, then shock it and squeeze out all the water. (Or use frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed.)

For each serving:

  1. Toss together the pasta, cheese sauce, spinach, ricotta, and garlic until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Portion individual servings into ramekins, using about 1 cup pasta for each.
  3. Top each one with 2 tablespoons parmesan.
  4. To serve, bake a portion until hot through and browned on top.