Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

by | Pasta

Grandma Sneaks Veggies Into the Kids Favorite Stuffed Shells

All the deliciousness of Mac & Cheese but with ground meat and healthy sneaky veggies stuffed into these pasta shells.

Grandma’s Healthy Pasta

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, an easy yet healthy dinner recipe to look forward to because I knew mommy and daddy were busy with Christmas shopping, decorating and preparing for this festive time of year. 

Now, these healthy stuffed pasta shells have become my go-to drop off dinner any time of year, for busy friends and families, simply because 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, and of course, I always make sure to save some healthy stuffed pasta shells for me to enjoy as well!

Healthy Pasta Shells

What makes these stuffed pasta shells healthy? Trickery! 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, or crushed beans (which can look and taste like meat), with a little 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!

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

Pasta Shells Hide Things

Pasta shells are so easy to dump into a pot of boiling water, gently simmer for 10 minutes, then lay them out 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 and very forgiving jumbo pasta shells. 

Healthy Vegan 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 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! 

Individually Plated and Ready To Bake

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

Equipment Needed

  • Large pot for pasta
  • 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 Stuffed Pasta Shells

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. 

But 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 on PBS is when my secret got out! The judges loved my Sneaky Stuffed Shells and now my grandkids are ‘on to’ grandma!

My sneaky stuffed shells on PBS
My Sneaky Stuffed Shells On PBS!

Easy Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells

Recipe by rdaumitCourse: PastaCuisine: Mediterranean
Servings

6

servings

Ingredients

  • Onion – 1 large, finely chopped

  • Ground beef or Turkey – 2 pounds OR 2 cups cooked French lentils

  • Olive oil – 1 tablespoon

  • Salt – 2 teaspoons

  • Cayenne pepper – 1/8 teaspoon OR 1 fresh chili pepper chopped fine

  • Garlic – 2 cloves, crushed

  • Oregano – 1/4 cup fresh, or 2 tablespoons, dried

  • Zucchini – 2 cups, grated or finely chopped

  • Tomato sauce – 2- 24 ounce jars

  • Grated cheese – 1 cup, or more if you like

  • Large Pasta Shells – 24 ounces (2 boxes)

Directions

  • 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.
  • Notes: 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. 
Healthy Stuffed Pasta Shells
 

My Muffin Madness

 

In my family, I’ve always been known as the ‘Muffin Queen’. Out of necessity, I created muffins for breakfast, lunch, on the go snacks, sometimes dinner and a sweet yet healthyish treat for dessert!

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