Stuffed Shells

Serves 8 to 10

TIP: Cooked zucchini stands in for some of the cheese in the traditional ricotta filling, adding bulk and moisture. Other vegetables can be substituted, including sautéed mushrooms, or baked butternut squash.


  • 12 ounces (1 box) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 40 shells)
  • Tomato Sauce
    • 32oz canned peeled plum tomatoes in juice
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
    • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
    • Salt
    • 2 sprigs fresh basil
    • Pepper
    • 1-pound bag baby spinach
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for serving
    • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
    • 2 scallions, chopped
    • 2 cups (16 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat, part-skim mozzarella cheese
    • 1 thin slice ham, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • Pinch grated nutmeg


  1. Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells, and cook partway – they should have started to become tender but will still be firm to the bite, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander, and immediately transfer to the oiled baking sheet, spreading them out in a single layer so that they don’t stick together. Let cool.
  2. For the sauce, dump cans of tomatoes in a bowl and mash with your hands, or pulse in food processor to chop. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to very low and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. (Check a few times during cooking; if vegetables begin to brown, add 2 teaspoons water and stir.) Add the tomatoes with juice, basil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently 5 minute. Then simmer very gently, partially covered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Scrape into another container with a rubber spatula; set aside.
  3. Add the spinach and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Place over medium heat, cover, and cook, tossing every now and then with tongs for even cooking, until wilted, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, and let cool, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can, and chop. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring every now and then, until tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add scallions during the final 1 minute. Add to the bowl with the spinach. Add the ricotta, the ham, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the parsley, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and the nutmeg, and stir to combine.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of two 9×13-inch baking dishes. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 1 tablespoon per shell, and arrange the shells side by side in a single layer in the prepared dishes. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle each with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.