Recipe: Kid-Friendly Stuffed Shells

by Cate on December 20, 2011

Stuffed Shells - Before
When it comes to kids and dinner, there are a few must-have ingredients in your kitchen cupboard.  For me?  Canned tomato products (paste, sauce, crushed tomatoes) and pasta are at the top of the list.  I’m a big fan of the Tuttorosso brand, flavorful but not heavy-handed, as a starting base for a pasta recipe.  When the day is long and inspiration is short, I know I can whip up a quick pasta dinner, and the kids will be happy.  And when they’re happy, I’m happy.  It’s a pretty simple equation.

Although I have the occasional jar of pasta sauce on hand, I usually make homemade tomato sauce.  Some days (usually the ones that start with an S), it means a long-simmering sauce on the stove.  Others, it’s a quicker version.  You can still make a very homemade tomato sauce with pantry staples and skip the jar stuff.  Which is much better for you.  In my humble opinion, of course.

In my ongoing guilt over not making enough Italian food, I decided tonight was a good night for stuffed shells.  I haven’t had them in f-o-r-e-v-e-r, it’s easy for a weeknight dinner, and everyone can leave the table with happy, well-fed, warm little tummies.  Even this happy little sous chef.

Littlest Sous Chef
Ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, spinach, an egg, garlic, salt, pepper, shells.  Stupid simple.  The below recipe makes a very healthy amount, which means yummy leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  A notion I’m completely down with.

Posing with Her Masterpiece

December 20, 2011 – Bonus Photos
Feeling Grown-Up
Sometimes Every time we pull into the driveway, and it’s just Madeline and me, and I don’t get out of the car fast enough, Madeline pleads to sit in the front seat “like a grown-up.”  If we have a few minutes to spare, I park the car, turn it off but leave the radio on, unbuckle her seat belt and she climbs into the front seat.  Fastens her seat belt.  And proceeds to ask me a million questions about the buttons, plays with the radio, locks, and window, but never asks me to drive.  Luckily, for the most part, she’s my ardent rule follower.  Interesting juxtaposition for my wild child.  She might be a touch of happycrazy, but she hates to get in trouble.  That combination is pretty awesome, if you ask me.

Kid-Friendly Stuffed Shells
Recipe courtesy of Cate O’Malley

  • 1 (12 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 egg
  • 1 box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • One cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce) jar pasta sauce (or use the homemade tomato sauce from this recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. In a large bowl, mix egg, ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Stuff cooked shells with ricotta mixture and place (opening up) in a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  4. Pour tomato sauce over stuffed shells.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 60 minutes, until edges are bubbly and shells are slightly set.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Betsy December 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Love stuffed shells, but never thought of making them on a weekday. Maybe they don’t take as long as I think. Or, maybe I’m just slow in the kitchen. Ha. I used to make a CL recipe for shells and froze 1/2 for super easy dinners (it was one of those freezer recipes) Thanks for the recipe. It’s time for shells again! Love the pics!


Joanne December 21, 2011 at 7:22 am

I LOVE stuffed shells. I definitely haven’t been making enough Italian food either, at least not for my parents’ liking. I would have totally been all over these as a kid. Put ricotta in anything and I’m pretty content.


Patsy December 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I haven’t made stuffed shells in ages! Might have to do it next week! Yum!


Joanne T Ferguson September 21, 2012 at 6:58 am

Do these freeze well and if so, do you have any hints and specific tips on how to freeze and reheat? Thank you!


Cate September 21, 2012 at 8:54 am

Hi Joanne T! Yes, these are great for a freezer meal. I wouldn’t bake them first though. I would make the stuffed shells and then freeze them individually, on a cookie sheet until solid, then packed loose into bags. Then, you can take out as many as you need/want. Add them to the sauce, following the rest of the recipe. It will take just a little longer than fresh, but the stuffed shells themselves really don’t need much cooking once they’re heated through.


Joanne T Ferguson September 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm

G’day and big thanks. So freeze them individually; follow the recipe.
So would still preheat the oven, cook them from frozen for about 45 – 60 minutes; maybe a tad longer? Thank you. Will try making these for a friend, so that’s why I wanted to clarify so I give her the proper info too!


Cate September 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Yep! I would figure maybe an additional 15 minutes or so, depending on oven, how frozen, etc. Hope you love them!


Joanne T Ferguson September 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Thank you again! I love them already! :)


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