These Italian-style Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Mushrooms are packed with cheese and vegetables for the most delicious vegetarian weeknight dinner.
It's been awhile since I've made stuffed shells. My mom used to make them every now and then when we were little, and I'm pretty sure I refused to eat them because of the ricotta cheese (how wrong I was about the deliciousness of ricotta!). Stuffed shells remain the ultimate comfort food for me -- full of cheesy, vegetable goodness all wrapped in my favorite -- pasta. Now that I'm sick and sniffly on the couch, I could really use some of this for dinner tonight.
Most recently, I made these shells for the neighborhood ladies during a surprise, impromptu baby shower/dinner for our next door neighbor who's expecting their 4th child any day now. Side note: You should have seen the 5 of us huddled in our living room in the semi-dark trying to figure out how to surprise Laura but not surprise-her-into-labor as she was coming over ("Should we hide? Should we just whisper "surpriiiiiise!"?). It was hilarious.
Easy Peasy Stuffed Shells
Stuffed shells were the perfect dinner idea for the shower because they can be made in advance, are absolute comfort food on a cold night, don't take a lot of fuss, and can feed a crowd. Those are pretty much my requirements for most meals in the winter time (minus the feeding a crowd thing).
Ingredients for Stuffed Shells
Here's what you'll need:
- jumbo shells (they're not actually that big...I hate that they're called "jumbo")
- spinach (I prefer fresh spinach but you can easily use frozen spinach, too. Just pat it as dry as possible with paper towels before adding it to your cheese mixture)
- ricotta cheese
- fresh basil
- Italian seasoning
- mozzarella cheese
- parmesan cheese
- marinara sauce
- olive oil, salt and pepper (do these even count?!)
Tips for this recipe
- Add olive oil to your salted water so your shells don't stick together.
- If you are really worried about aesthetics, you can put the cheese mixture in a big plastic bag, cut an inch end off the corner and pipe the mixture into the shells that way. The shells will often fold up as they cook, so this tip isn't always foolproof but it is a bit less messy than using a spoon.
- Don't forget to coat the bottom of the pan with marinara sauce. This will prevent the shells from sticking to the bottom and drying out.
- Add about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pasta water to prevent the shells from sticking together.
Variations on stuffed shells with spinach and mushrooms
Don't feel like you have to only make stuffed shells with spinach and mushrooms. You can use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. I've used kale, finely chopped asparagus, and even peas before.
You could also make these stuffed shells with meat (I actually used to believe a meal wasn't a meal unless it involved meat). Ground beef is my favorite option, but you could also use sausage or even chicken.
Make this dinner in advance
You can easily make this dinner in advance. Just do everything except the actual baking -- so cook the vegetables, stuff the mixture in the shells, pour the sauce and cheese on top, and then cover with aluminum foil and stick in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake. The shells will keep about 2 days in the fridge before you should bake them.
Sides for the Stuffed Shells
We usually have a very small side salad with stuffed shells. This caesar salad would be delightful. Don't forget the garlic bread, too (more carbs...mmmmm!). This Italian Sausage and Spinach Soup would also be amazing.
Here's to a hopefully short cold!
Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Mushrooms
- 30 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 5 oz package fresh spinach
- 1 package of mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 2 cups mozzarella, shredded and divided
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and pepper
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place about ⅓ cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan and set aside.
- Cook your pasta in a large pan of salted water.* Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes then run under cold water to stop the shells from cooking any more. Place shells on top of marinara sauce in baking pan.
- Meanwhile, heat up non-stick skillet on medium with olive oil. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant. Fold spinach into mixture until just barely wilted. Take off heat.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, fresh basil, Italian seasoning, 1 ½ cups of mozzarella, and parmesan. Add spinach and mushroom mixture until everything is combined.
- Stuff shells with mixture**. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm!