Spinach Cheese Stuffed Shells

February 15, 2011

When I am planning meals for the week, I always take into consideration what I already have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.

If there is a particular item that I’ve had for a while–or one that is almost gone–then I try to find a recipe to use it up.

These are the two items I was glad to use. (I have this thing where if something is almost gone, I want to use it up as soon as possible.)

Item #1: 8 shells left in this box

Item #2: 1/3 of the bag left

In addition, there are a few other things I take into consideration when choosing a recipe:

1. If the recipe requires buying a lot of new ingredients, I nix it.

2. I will choose a different recipe if the ingredient(s) I need would be really expensive to buy. (Example: meat, seafood, specialty cheeses)

3. If I do have to buy an ingredient, but know I will never use the entire item, I will either sub a different ingredient or find a different recipe. (Example: specialty oils or some fresh herbs)

4. If the item requires an items that is out of season–and thereby very expensive–I will wait to try the recipe. (Example: mango, asparagus)

One of the first places I start looking for recipes is often my Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine.

I love this magazine! I have found a TON of good recipes from this and there is a picture for every recipe!

Last night’s recipe comes from the February/March 2011 issue.

The original recipe was for Spinach Cheese Manicotti, but I adapted it for the jumbo pasta shells I had in my pantry already.

Spinach Cheese Stuffed Shells

Yield: 2-3 servings


8 jumbo shells

1/2 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

3/4 cup water

1/8 cup vegetable broth

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon thyme


2 oz. cream cheese

3/4 cup reduced-fat cottage cheese

5 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, broth, sugar, oregano, basil, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. For filling, beat cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the cottage cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese, egg, and salt.

4. Spread half of the tomato sauce in a small baking dish coasted with cooking spray.

5. Stuff cheese mixture into cooked shells and arrange in dish.

6. Pour remaining sauce over top.

7. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.


The shells stuffed with the cheese mixture.

After baking. . . .

Craig loved the shells, and I would give them a 7/10. I didn’t love them, but I think I might just be over red marinara sauce. Don’t get me wrong, they were good–just not “out -of-this-world” good.

I made roasted broccoli on the side.


After a day off, I always try to do a medium-long run the next day since my legs should be fresh. So this morning I ran 7 miles.

I would have liked to do 1-2 more miles but didn’t have time because I had to be to school earlier than normal. (Actually come to find out, our staff meeting was canceled, so I could have run more!! Grrr!!! I also could have given my husband some attention this morning instead of ignoring him while I ran around the apartment in a tizzy trying to get out the door in time.)

It was another bitter cold morning–5 degrees, but I still had a pretty enjoyable run. Actually, my biggest “fist-shaking” was done at the nasty ice on the roads. I have no idea how it happened! It wasn’t like we had a dose of rain that refroze?!?!



What things do you take into consideration when planning meals?

    1. Great looking stuffed shells, my husband is Italian and we’ve NEVER made them.

      When planning meals, I think of what we have on hand, whether my husband will be home that week, and my work schedule. If I have lots of staff meetings, than I look for lots of easy to prep meals.

    1. This meal might be the best thing I have ever eaten that came in a shell.

    1. Those are great meal panning tips! Another thing I think about is how many servings it makes, because I love to have lots of leftovers for lunches over the next few days. Or, additionally, how I can use the leftovers in a new meal altogether.

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