Everyone needs another pasta recipe. And a quick meal one is even better, which works here if you take shortcuts like buying tomato sauce instead of making your own. The truth is, I was never really a huge fan of this well-known Italian-American favorite. To me, stuffed shells often seem bland and textureless. But this classic baked pasta dish that has long been hailed as an American comfort food and I totally get that now.
Lately, while in lockdown, I’ve been seeking comfort, so I decided to develop my own stuffed shells recipe and this one fits the comfort food box perfectly. My recipe is full of flavor, loaded with vegetables and best part, won’t take all day to make.
Stuffed shells are made with conchiglioni pasta, the larger version of conchiglie, which means “conch shells.” The jumbo shells have thin ridges set close together and are, of course, stuffed, usually with a combination of meat, cheeses, and vegetables. Unlike the tubes of manicotti, shells can hold an amount of stuffing equal to the size and shape of an egg. Commonly sold in the plain durum wheat variety, you also see it in colored varieties which use natural pigments, such as tomato extract, squid ink or spinach extract.
What I love about this type of dish is the ability to make it and divide it into smaller portions to be baked off (as needed) for those in your family who may be on different schedules. With my entire family on Zoom calls, our schedules can often conflict. So sometime, when I will make this dish, I will divide it into two serving dishes to bake off separately, to accommodate different eating times. I’ll also made this recipe in small individual baking dishes which can make an impressive presentation and is a nice alternative to one big serving dish.
So, if you’re seeking comfort, or just another another easy pasta dish to feel the family, give this stuffed shells recipe a try. I’m even willing to bet the kids won’t complain about the tasty veggies they’re loaded with.
- 24 jumbo shells
- 2 cups (or 2x the recipe of my homemade tomato sauce) or low-sugar store bought marinara sauce
- 1 (16-ounce) container baby spinach
- 2 cups broccoli florets, blanced
- 1 1/2 cups full-fat ricotta
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 1/2 cups full-fat mozzarella cheese, grated and divided
- 3/4-1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cook the pasta according to package directions till al dente, about 9-10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Set aside. Spread the sauce onto the bottom of a large 9×13 baking dish.
- Step 2 Squeeze the spinach of excess moisture, roughly chop and place in a large bowl. Chop the broccoli and add it to the bowl. Stir in the ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and mix well to blend.
- Step 3 Spoon the mixture into the shells (about 1/4 cup each) and place on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
- Step 4 Cover the shells with foil, place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil ,increase the heat to broil. Broil the shells until the cheese begins to brown, 3-5 minutes. Serve hot.
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