Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells (with video)

Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells are all the deliciousness of Mac & Cheese but with ground meat and sneaky veggies stuffed inside.

Hidden Veggies Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells
Hidden Veggies Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

Grandma’s Easy Healthy Pasta Shells

Easy healthy stuffed pasta shells are my fast, do-ahead and savable recipe for those busy times in life.

I first made these stuffed pasta shells over the Christmas season to give to my grandchildren.

It was intended to be an easy yet healthy dinner recipe to look forward to because I knew mommy and daddy were busy preparing for this busy festive time of year. 

While I know my grandkids love Pasta of any type, I thought a meal in one, would make for a faster, healthier pasta dinner.

Busy Family Pasta Shells

Now, these healthy stuffed pasta shells have become my go-to drop off dinner any time of year for busy friends and families.

It’s quick and easy for me to prepare and easy for them to just pop in the oven to warm. 

I feel pleased to know that I can contribute to a healthy meal for busy young families.

Of course, I always make sure to save some healthy stuffed pasta shells for me to enjoy as well!

Mediterranean Stuffed Shells with Gravy
Mediterranean Stuffed Shells with Gravy

Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

What makes these stuffed pasta shells different from so many other pasta recipes I make?

Homemade Pasta Of Various Types
Homemade Pasta Of Various Types

Everything you need for a complete meal is stuffed into the jumbo pasta shells.

Easy Healthy Meals

I starting practicing food trickery long ago when my kids were little; I hide veggies in them!

If you’ve made my ‘Grandma’s Sneaky Meatballs’, you will know how easy it is to hide healthy veggies in ground meats.

For a Vegan Meatball option, I like to crush beans (which can look and taste like meat), with a little dairy or non-dairy melted cheese.

Zucchini is usually my veggie of choice, but mushrooms, kale and spinach work perfectly, as well. It’s my favorite veggies to hide in Grandma’s Sneaky Meatballs!

The Healthier Approach To Pasta

Pasta, as you know (unless homemade), is usually just flour and water, pretty much the same thing as a pizza crust.

So why not use the pasta shells as a great base to stuff all kinds of healthy things inside!

Same sauce over pasta
Same Sauce Over Pasta

Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells Hide Things

Cooking the pasta shells is so easy.

Simply drop them into a pot of boiling water, simmer for 10 minutes, lay them on a tray to await the healthy stuffing ingredients of your choice. 

You would be amazed at how creative you will become at hiding healthy and delicious ingredients inside of these easy to handle pasta shells. 

It was probably what these jumbo Shells were first created for!

Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

While this recipe is pretty much a de-constructed plate of spaghetti and meatballs, using ground meat with grated zucchini, tomato sauce, cheese and herbs, it can easily be transformed into a vegan recipe as well.

Cooked and then ground French lentils (my favorite to use in Vegan Meatballs), instead of meat would trick just about any committed meat eater into believing there is meat in the stuffed pasta shells! 

Grated veggies, blended with tomato sauce, fresh herbs and a vegan cheese that melts nicely, makes these easy healthy stuffed pasta shells a much sought after dish for both meat eaters and vegan eaters alike! 

Ingredients Needed

  • Onion
  • Ground Beef – or French lentil for a vegetarian version
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Cayenne peper
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Zucchini
  • Tomato sauce
  • Grated cheese
  • Jumbo Pasta Shells
Individually plated and ready to bake
Individually Plated and Ready To Bake

Equipment Needed

  • Large pot for pasta – I prefer this pot for easier draining of the pasta, or an even faster technique if you are a huge microwave fan!
  • Large saute pan
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Strain to drain pasta
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Box grater to shred zucchini
  • Garlic press
  • Foil
  • Stovetop or burner
  • Oven

Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells – Grandma’s Secret

I can’t stress enough how easy these are to make.

The filling can be made a day in advance, or if you’re like me, I make large batches when I am in the mood to cook, freeze portioned bundles.

And there ya have it, as an option for easy stuffed pasta shells or topping for pizza or other types of pasta. 

Easy Meat Sauce

Comparatively, we all know how fast and easy it is to make a meat sauce for busy work nights, anyway.

That sauce gets dumped on top of a plate of pasta and there’s dinner!

So, why not elevate your family’s easy pasta dish into something that looks like you’ve been cooking all day, just like grandma!

Hah! I AM A GRANDMA and I don’t have time to cook all day! (wink)

Sneaky Stuffed Shells On The Great American Recipe – PBS

Oops! My secret is out!

Don’t tell the kids!

Season 1 Episode 3 The Great American Recipe on PBS, is when my secret got out! The judges loved my Sneaky Stuffed Shells and now my grandkids got the scoop on grandma!

My sneaky stuffed shells on PBS
My Sneaky Stuffed Shells On PBS!
Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

Hiding veggies in a great meat sauce, stuffed in jumbo pasta shells lathered with cheese is the trick of a mom and grandma!
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Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


  • Large pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • Baking dish


  • 1 Large Onion finely chopped
  • 2 lbs Ground beef or Turkey or 2 cups cooked French lentils
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • pinch Cayenne pepper or 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 2 Garlic cloves crushed
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Oregano or 2 tbsp dried
  • 2 cups Zucchini grated
  • 2 24-oz Tomato sauce jars or cans
  • 1 cup Grated cheese extra if preferred
  • 24 oz Large Pasta Shells 2 boxes


  • Saute onions in olive oil. Add ground meat (or lentils). Stir and cook until most of the pink is gone.
    Add spices, zucchini and tomato sauce. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Then cool. 
  • Meanwhile, cook the shells according to directions.
    Run under cold water to stop cooking, lay the shells out on a tray or parchment paper and allow to drain. 
  • Place as much filling as you can fit into the shells.
    Layer the shells in a baking dish and generously sprinkle cheese on top of each layer. 
  • When ready to serve, simply pop into a 325 oven, covered with foil or a lid, for about 15 – 20 minutes until the cheese has melted.



This recipe can be arranged and then frozen. Keeping small disposable baking trays, makes for an easy way to freeze the stuffed shells, heat, and less clean up. 
Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells
Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells
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