Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe

I knew I really wanted Stuffed Pasta Shells the other evening.  That was probably the only thing I've been sure of in the last few weeks.  I've been feeling twisted and torn in many directions as of late.  My daughter has decided she is going to try out for cheerleading for next year.  Translation: If she makes the team, it's an 11 month stretch of hers and my time.

All the girls at the gym last night were anxiety ridden over the thought of the upcoming tryouts.  I have to admit I am too, but for completely different reasons.  I've finally carved out one or two evenings a week for myself and I would have to give those up if she makes the team.  I'm also torn because she will be 16 this summer.  I'm just not quite ready to hand over the car keys to her.

When my oldest was 16 she had her license and was ready to go.  She was also the kid who did all her homework without being asked, had a healthy dose of fear and was home when she was supposed to be.  My younger daughter is the complete opposite and she posses no fear.  Having no fear serves her well when she hurls herself in the air to do a back flip.  That same lack of reservations could have dire consequences behind the wheel.

My stomach has been in knots, I needed some pasta and cheese to settle things down.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 ounces chopped pancetta
1 small bag fresh spinach
12 ounces (1 box) jumbo shells, cooked and drained
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 quart marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1)  Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add the olive oil and pancetta, cook for a few minutes until pancetta is starting to brown.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool.

2)  Boil the shells in salted water until almost cooked about 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3)  In a bowl combine, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, black pepper, and oregano.  Squeeze the water out of the spinach mixture and add it to the cheeses and mix until combined.

4)  Spread a small amount of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking dish and stuff each shell with a large tablespoon of the cheese mixture and lay the filled shells on the sauce.  I find the easiest way to stuff the shells is with my hands.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the filled shells.

5)  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melted.

If you want to get ahead you can make the filling the night before or even boil the shells and store both in the fridge and then stuff them right before baking.

I'm just not sure if I can handle that driver's ed car pulling up to my house again.  My hairdresser is having a hard enough time handling all the gray I have now.  Am I over thinking this here?

You should probably just make the shells they are delicious and uncomplicated; unlike my life at the moment.

Wishing a Very Happy Birthday to Patty - Patty's Food, and Catherine - Living The Gourmet today.  Hoping there is lots of cake and good cheer coming their way.




  1. I love stuffed pasta, this looks like the ultimate comfort food :).

  2. Gina,
    I need some of those stuffed shells ASAP. I love spinach and combined with all that cheese and sauce, lots of comfort in your dish. Our life here in our peaceful neighborhood has been turned upside down since the invasion of the coyotes. We are afraid for our dogs.

    1. That's awful Becky! You need some comfort food. I hope animal control can do something about it.

  3. Oh friend! Someone once told me that all you can do is give your kids good values and let them free in the world and hope they'll know what to do when the time comes. Sounded like great advice at the time. Not so great now that I have a kid of my own. I wish I could guard him forever :) Your daughter seems like a smart girl (just like her momma!) and I think your values will go a long way behind the wheel of a car. Plus, why would she want to be late for dinner with dinners like this one? :)

  4. Hi Gina,

    I can't imagine when my 4 yo boy is turning 18 and I have handed my car keys to him. Good and bad feelings for me. Good that he has grown... Bad that he will be gone :p

    Can't imagine anymore... I need these pasta too to settle my tummy :D


  5. I've been missing so much of your posts Gina...love your stories...your amazing stuffed shells; great recipe! Also, the thumbprint cookies and your S'Mores cupcakes:) You've got a lot going on in your household, but you are handling things well and you have quite a 'baking therapy' to balance things out!

  6. Stuffed shells was always my favorite (and requested for my birthday) meal when I was a kiddo. Mmmmm! Nice additions with the pancetta and spinach in the mix, too!

  7. I need these pasta shells. They have my drool hitting the keyboard!

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. Gina, I need this in my life too! Love your cooking, simple, yet so surprisingly good!

  9. Hi Gina. I can't imagine letting go...we still haven't welcomed our little girl into the world, and I'm already dreading the day! These stuffed shells look so delicious though. Perfect comfort food. Thank you for sharing, sweet friend. I hope today and this week brings many blessings and more good food!

  10. Tough choice with the car keys! I'd trust my gut on this. But of course that's easy for me to say, because I'm not faced with your decision. Anyway, deciding to make these stuffed pasta shells was a brilliant move! These look terrific. And I can confidently say, my gut is telling me that I need to eat these, and soon. ;-) Good stuff - thanks.

  11. Oh Gina I wish my parents had insisted I learn to drive at 16. I have the opposite- too much fear and even today I cannot drive ( the few times I try) without getting clammy! I am sure your daughter will do great. But yes, when I push my kid into drivers ed I am sure I will be feeling just like you! Will bookmark these stuffed pasta shells for then :) Look forward to meeting you real soon!

  12. I need a dish of these stuffed pasta shells in my life! Can't wait to catch up with you;-). How did the cookie bribe work for your teacher? That's what I need shells and cookies, ASAP ;-)

  13. I haven't had stuffed shells in years. For some reason I don't think of them. Thanks for the reminder...I'm off to buy ingredients tomorrow!

  14. Yikes. Well of COURSE you are stressed! I was the oldest, and a lot like your older daughter - but I fear that my little girl has the same fearlessness as your younger, and that is absolutely frightening! Here's to trust and faith in them. And maybe if she knows there's stuffed shells in the oven, she'll come home in time for dinner ;)

  15. I love to stuff pasta shells with all sorts of fillings. This looks just amazing and so appetizing! Yum!

  16. Pasta is my go-to food when I need calming to, there is something grounding about eating a bowl of pasta. I guess it is truly comfort food. Well I hope you get to have a least one night to yourself.

  17. No, you're not overthinking it. I have two daughters of similar ages and with similar dispositions. I totally understand how you feel!

  18. Is it wrong of me to think when I see this recipe... "I want my mommy?" And I already have my license. GREG

  19. Oh Gina, I'd love to come over and eat these shells with you while you tell me about your concerns. I promise to listen and eat everything on my plate, but as far as advice I'd probably tell you to have another shell:) Good luck with all the new happenings. xx