This Pasta Is an Artichoke-Dip Lover's Dream Come True
I was late to the party when it came to "discovering" spinach-artichoke dip. I had it for the first time in high school and immediately fell for it—hard. It combined so many things I loved: creamy cheese, garlicky goodness, wilted greens, and nutty-tasting artichokes.It became my go-to contribution for potluck college gatherings, when I'd hope and pray for leftovers to use as an omelet filling or pasta sauce the next day. But I quickly realized how much other people love this dip, too, as it was almost always completely devoured well before the keg started floating.
Several decades removed from that first experience, I had an aha moment: Why pray for leftovers when I can create a pasta dish that captures the goodness of my beloved dip and, dare I say, one-ups it? For these stuffed shells, I swapped out the spinach in favor of lacinato kale, which adds richer earthiness and a heftier texture that is particularly well suited to stuffed pasta. I also went with frozen artichoke hearts, which are firmer than the canned variety. The flavor is truer to fresh artichokes, too—free of tinny notes—while still offering the convenience of prepped globes.
To create the creamy base for the filling, I turned to Boursin cheese, a shortcut I love because it combines creaminess with a sharp garlic-herb flavor. I also use pureed white beans because they yield a heartier texture than, say, a mouthful of cream cheese. The harshest recipe critics—my twin teenage boys—are the first to declare "Too cheesy! Too mushy!" if a dish doesn't provide enough texture. (Granted, this can be annoying, but it's also pretty helpful if you develop recipes for a living.) Well, I am happy to report no such pronouncements when they first tried these stuffed shells. Instead, I'm happy to report they said it tasted "like spinach-artichoke dip...but better." And I can think of no higher praise than that.