Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Shells

18 Dec

I planned the menu for my niece’s baby shower last week.  As you know… I only plan vegetarian parties, so this baby shower would be no exception. Last time we catered a lunch, but after all that was left afterwards, I decided this time around I would do the catering myself.


Over the next few posts you’ll enjoy some of the creations I prepared for the event. I am pretty audacious because I am not afraid of trying a new recipe onto 20-30 unsuspecting guests. Some are really not that new… but new twists on old favorites. Some are just improvisations at the last minute. Like this stuffed shell recipe for example…

The main course for the baby shower menu was Broccoli/Cauliflower Stuffed Shells. You’ve already read about it here. Pastas are so popular among non-vegetarians and so easy to make in advance that I decided this would be the dish to wow once again some vegetarian lifestyle non-believers. I didn’t want to make lasagna like I did for my nephew’s birthday just a mere 6 weeks ago. But stuffed shells give you the same make-in-advance advantages but in a very different presentation. People just feel is something completely different, when in reality, it isn’t.


I was making 2 baking dishes of stuffed shells… so my instinct was boil two boxes of large pasta shells. I never knew how many shells that would yield. When I was halfway thru my broccoli/cauliflower filling I knew that I was going to run out of filling before I would run out of shells. So my instinct was to make a cheese/spinach stuffing with some extra cheese I had bought. My family always teases me that I exaggerate… maybe it’s the Cuban in me. But I always want to err on the side of caution… we have a saying in Spanish – “Pa’ que falte, que sobre.” which translates to that I prefer to have more food than we need than to be short. So I always buy a few extra cheeses and things when I am cooking for a party. Sometimes I don’t need them, but this time it came in extra handy.

Cheese Spinach Stuffed Shells


About 30 brown-rice pasta shells – I use the Tinkyáda brand
2 tbs olive oil, divided for the filling and the tomato sauce
15oz ricotta cheese
8oz package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
4 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped for filling
Another handful of basil leaves –chopped for sauce
28oz of diced tomatoes
About 1 tbs apple cider vinegar
4 oz of crème fraiche
4 oz of sour cream
½ cup of milk
6 Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive Oil
  1. Bring a large pot filled with salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water boils, add the pasta shells. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until they have grown in size a bit, are flexible to the touch, but still not fully cooked. Drain the pasta shells and rinse with cold filtered water to stop the cooking process and cool them enough to handle. Set aside.
  3. For the filling, mix together the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, baby spinach and basil leaves for the filling. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. It helps when the ingredients are at room temperature.
  4. For the tomato sauce, mix together the diced tomato, salt, pepper, vinegar, basil leaves and a small drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
  5. For the white sauce that goes on top, mix together the crème fraiche, sour cream, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and season with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
  6. Now we assemble… in your baking dish 9 x 13 glass baking dish pour the tomato sauce on the bottom. Using a small spoon, fill each shell with the cheese mixture and place in the baking dish. I can accommodate about 3 rows of 10 shells each.
  7. After all the shells are filled and placed on the baking dish, spoon the white sauce over the shells. Now sprinkle some additional parmesan cheese on top of the white sauce and finish with pieces of fresh mozzarella on top.
  8. Now we bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown. If you find the top is not browning, just turn the broiler on and watch the oven until it starts getting golden. Turn the broiler off and wait a few minutes. It’ll brown a little bit more with the oven off, you’ll see. As always… leave it there for about 10-15 more so it finishes cooking with the residual heat in the oven.

You can certainly assemble everything the night before your event, cover completely and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake. I usually take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I want to bake… or before pre-heating the oven. Then bake as directed above.

Cheese Stuffed Shells - in progress

This dish was such a hit!!!! Both, these shells and the original broccoli/cauliflower ones, were all a great success. Even my cousin has asked me to show her how to make the recipe. It’s simple, no?? She’s excited I am posting here, but she wants a full-on demo in her kitchen. So now I know what I am eating the night before the Miami ½ Marathon I am running next month!!!!

Have you ever come up with a recipe “on the fly” that was as successful as your original recipe???? Please share…


15 Responses to “Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Shells”

  1. healthygirlandthecity December 18, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    this is amazing – yum! thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Jeannette Quiñones-Cantore December 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    oye que rico se ve todo desde el cake hasta la pasta, look yummy!

  3. Riquísimo PR December 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Ultimamente he visto muchas recetas con coliflor. Estos shells se ven deliciosos! Y fácil de preparar!!

    • KarmaFree Cooking December 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

      el coliflor está en temporada…. cauliflower is in season!!!! Madelyn.

  4. Sadie December 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Looks tasty! I love recipes that stuff other veggies in, for myself and to prove to carnivores that you can eat lots of veggies in a single meal and it it not that bad like they think. Pasta is a great way to do that.

    As for successes on a crowd-I once was making a huge tray of mac and cheese for 50 people, and found that half my cheese was bad (had gotten wet in the cooler and turned to unusable paste, ew) and I had no time or resources to go to a store for more as we were way out in the woods at a wedding reception.
    I did have some whole squash though, acorn and butternut, so I quickly cubed and steamed them, pureed and mixed it into the cheese I did have with a few eggs (they were all ovo-lacto veg or regular omnivores) and baked.
    The squash added bulk and creaminess, and mixed with the cheese very well so most folks didn’t even notice. It was really good, and had added health benefits too! I hadn’t meant to make squash mac on purpose, but it worked in a pinch!
    I know that is a common dish for many, but for those who weren’t veg it was new and different and saved that part of the meal.

    I am so making the broc and cauliflower version of these very soon. Yum

  5. Otros Veinte Pesos December 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Se ve rico!!!

  6. yococinotufriegas December 19, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Se ve deliciosa y sencilla de preparar. Ese bizcocho me encanta!

    • KarmaFree Cooking December 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks… but the cake we ordered. I can cook, but I am challenged in the baking department, or the decorating part, I should say. I know my limitations!!!! 😉

  7. vinicooksveg December 20, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    Looks great. Spinach and cheese makes great combination. Good one!

  8. grandbabycakes December 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Wow, this looks absolutely delish! Wow, I need to make these now!

    • Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane December 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      omg everything looks absolutely delicious!! and I love that ombre cake 😀 I’m definitely known for whipping something up that’s new and having it turn out yummy.

  9. ilse giselle December 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    The shells sound delicious but THAT CAKE! Omg it’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen! I want it lol!

  10. (@DailyCurlz) December 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    waoooo. look so goodddd

  11. bohemianbabushka December 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Another winner!!

  12. Maria December 23, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    YUM!! I want to try this after the holiday!! Thank you for the recipe. The cake looks divine as well!!

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