Stuffed Shells Recipe – Vegetable Packed!
This stuffed shells recipe is not only cheesy and delicious but it’s also full of vegetables so you can feel good about eating it too!
I have a habit of putting extra vegetables in juuuuuuust about everything. I can’t help myself.
A) It’s a good habit to be in.
B) It cleans out my fridge.
C) It gives us extra nutrition.
D) It tastes great!
The other day I was talking to my daughter (she’s four now!) and I asked her a question. I don’t remember what it was about anymore but she proceeded to state her reasoning this way:
“Well, for one _____. Two, _____. And three, ______.”
My lists are rubbing off on her.
I love that little stinker.
Anyways, back to the stuffed shells. I love this meal because it’s a good balance of decadence and nutrition. Yeah, it’s pasta and cheese. But you’re also getting tons of lean protein and colorful vegetables in there too. (PS: If you can find jumbo shells in whole wheat, let me know what brand!).
I also like these stuffed shells because they look pretty impressive (well, maybe not in my photos), but they really are fairly simple to make. The sauce is like any other spaghetti or pasta sauce – not that difficult and easy to customize to the tastes of your family and/or friends. The filling is easy too – I used cottage cheese and pureed it for an ultra silky texture, not grainy like ricotta can tend to be. Fill up the shells, cover with sauce and more cheese and bake. You could even make this ahead of time and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them.
I love the picture above because it shows all the vegetable goodness of this stuffed shells recipe – mushrooms, spinach, carrots, tomatoes of course, red bell peppers, onions.
And then you cut into them and there is a wealth of delicious, gooey cheese (3 types!). Of course, the cheese is also seasoned and flavored with fresh parsley.
If you’re feeling swamped and this sounds like way too much fuss (I totally get it!) – this sauce would be amazing poured over some cheese ravioli that you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store. And if you’re feeling like you have a tiny bit of energy, you could pour the sauce over the ravioli, sprinkle some mozzarella on top, and bake that until bubbly and golden. Yum.
Used in this recipe:
- 12 ounce box of jumbo shell pasta, cooked according to package, drained, and cooled on a sheet pan
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 19.5 ounces of Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (5 sausages) – casings removed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 red bell pepper, diced small
- 2 medium carrots, diced small
- 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 28-29 ounces diced tomatoes, including juice
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese (I use part-skim)
- 8 ounces mozzarella (I used Kraft shredded with a touch of Philadelphia Cream Cheese)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 8 ounces shredded parmesan, divided
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- While pasta is cooking, begin to prepare sauce. In a very large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat butter and olive oil until butter is melted and is starting to bubble.
- Add sausage, onion, bell pepper, and carrots. Sauté until sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, breaking it up as you go. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked. Add in garlic and stir to combine. Add spinach, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Stir to combine.
- Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Cook at a rapid simmer (medium heat) for about 20 minutes or until slightly reduced and thickened. Taste and season as needed.
- For the filling, mix together ricotta, mozzarella, parsley, egg, pepper and HALF of the parmesan until combined. Fill the shells evenly (I didn’t use all the shells). Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of sauce in the bottom of the pan. On top of the sauce, place the shells. On top of the shells, pour over the remainder of the sauce. Top with remaining parmesan cheese.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If cheese is browning too quickly, cover with foil (spray the underside of the foil so the cheese doesn’t stick to it).
Note: My pan was filled to the brim. In order to protect the cleanliness of my oven, I placed the pan of stuffed shells on top of a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any sauce that might bubble over. Note: serving size 4 stuffed shells and sauce
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1/8th of recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 645Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 147mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 45g
Verdict: Loved these and will definitely make again.
Husband’s take: He loved this stuffed shells recipe. No complaints were heard!
Changes I would make: None are necessary – but I’ve been known to throw whatever veggies I have in the fridge into the sauce.
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate.
Craving more pasta? I don’t blame you! Try:
- Creamy Enchilada Pasta
- Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna Rolls
- Pasta with Grapes and Creamy Dijon Sauce
- Rainbow Chard, Turkey, and Gruyere Skinny Macaroni and Cheese
- Chicken and Spinach Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
- Tortellini with Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce and Spinach
- Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
- Healthy Chicken Stroganoff
- Tuna Noodle Casserole (with a twist!)
- Chicken Alfredo Baked Ziti from Gimme Some Oven
- Creamy Sriracha Pasta Bake from Bake Your Day