My son and I are midway through a visit with my parents, and my mother is doing her best to make as many beloved recipes as possible. There are certain meals that speak to our souls. Quite often, they are simple in construction and take us back to our childhood. For me, it’s my Mum’s stuffed shells. This recipe tops my list of comfort foods. Happily, she made them for us last night. She doesn’t really measure the ingredients, so the measurements I am providing are a rough estimate for your convenience. This is a meatless meal, but if you desire, cooked and crumbled sausage, ground beef, or turkey would be an excellent addition. You could also switch up, add, or do a combination of herbs, fresh or dried. I love the versatility of stuffed shells!
1 lb jumbo shell pasta, cooked al dente according to package instructions
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 zucchini, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 large carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 tsp table salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 heaping Tbsp dried dill weed, or 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill weed, or to taste
16 oz container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
24 oz jar (or larger) of your favorite marinara sauce (store-bought or your own—my mom uses Prego, so that’s what I generally use when recreating this dish)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the shredded zucchini and carrot; sauté until softened, about 5-10 minutes more. Stir in the dill weed, salt, and pepper. Remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and set it aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1 cup Parmesan, and the eggs. Stir thoroughly.
4. Once the vegetable mixture has cooled, add the cheese mixture to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning; add more salt, pepper, and dill to suit your preferences.
5. Spread a thin base layer of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
6. Spoon the vegetable-cheese mixture into a gallon-sized zip-top bag, zip it shut, then, using scissors, snip 1-inch off a lower corner of the bag, creating a hole through which you can squeeze the vegetable-cheese filling into the pasta shells. Or you can skip this step and use a spoon to transfer the mixture into the pasta shells, but it’s a lot messier and takes longer.
7. Fill the cooked pasta shells with the vegetable-cheese mixture, roughly 2 rounded Tbsp per shell, and nestle them snuggly into the baking dish, fitting in as many as the dish will hold. Pour more marinara sauce over the filled shells. My mum just drizzles the shells with the sauce, while I’ve been known to be a little heavier-handed. In short, use as much sauce as you’d like.
8. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, then place it in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
9. After the shells have baked, take the baking dish out of the oven, remove the foil, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the stuffed shells. Return the baking dish to the oven and heat for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
10. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marina sauce to serve alongside the stuffed shells.
11. Once the cheese has melted, remove the stuffed shells from the oven and serve them warm with marinara sauce on the side.
As I was taking pictures, my mom asked me if I was planning on including them on the website. When I confirmed, she said in a very worried voice, “But I don’t have any fresh herbs for a garnish!” She is too cute!
🍅 This dish is wonderful served with warm, crusty garlic bread and a crisp green salad.