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Creamy Garlic + Broccoli Stuffed Shells

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Vegetarian
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Why we love it:

I love stuffed shells but always forget to make them! Upon seeing the box recently, I decided I must have stuffed shells but wanted to pack some veggies in there and deviate from my standard marinara sauce version. These are super simple to make and very satisfying to eat! You can use more shells and less filling or more filling in fewer shells - up to you how many to stuff. I usually use half of a one-pound box of shells, filled very full, and that serves about 4 adults with a kid bite here and there.


  • 1 pound Broccoli
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided, more to taste)
  • 12 pound Shells Pasta (large sized - about ½ a box fills a 13 x 9 casserole dish and serves 4)
  • 1 cup Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 cups Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated)
  • 112 cups Mozzarella (shredded)
  • 5 cloves Garlic (divided)
  • 14 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (or more to taste)
  • 14 teaspoon Nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 1 Lemon (zest)
  • 14 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Shallot
  • 112 cups Heavy Cream
  • 114 cups Whole Milk

Cooking Instructions


    Meanwhile, chop the broccoli florets and stems into small pieces. Place in a smaller pot and cover just to the top of the broccoli with water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 - 7 minutes or until broccoli is quite tender and can be mashed with a fork. Drain and place in a large bowl.

  • 4. PASTA

    Cook pasta shells according to package instructions, just until al dente. Drain and lay shells out on a large baking sheet. Return the pot to the stove for making the sauce.

  • 5. FILLING

    Mash broccoli in the bowl. Add all of the ricotta and about ½ of the parmesan and mozzarella (rough estimate is fine). Mince the garlic and add ½ of it. Add the red pepper flakes and fresh nutmeg, if using, and the lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • 6. SAUCE

    In the empty pasta pot, melt the butter. Mince the shallot and add it along with the remaining garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the cream and milk; set the heat to medium and slowly bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 3 - 4 minutes until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and stir in the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish and set the rest aside.

  • 7. STUFF

    Use a Tablespoon to fill each shell generously with filling then set it down in the baking dish. Repeat until all are filled. Pour the rest of the sauce over top, allowing it to drip into the shells and down the sides too.

    Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

  • 8. SERVING

    Spoon shells onto plates and serve. Leftovers are delicious when reheated in the oven or microwave (the stuffed shells and broccoli filling freeze beautifully but this cream sauce doesn’t. So if you freeze some, make the cream sauce later or serve this filling with marinara sauce).

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    I’ve never seen GF shells but they may exist - or do a baked casserole version, just mix the filling
    try with tomato-based pasta sauce and use either dairy free ricotta or silken tofu instead of ricotta in the filling - omit other cheeses
    make filling and serve with your favorite pasta or marinara sauce
    chopped mushrooms, frozen butternut squash cubes can be mashed up and make a delicious filling, or use frozen spinach, or other frozen chopped greens for a quick filling
    omit if you don’t prefer onion, or use an actual onion or ½ teaspoon of onion powder if more accessible
    swap out shells for penne or similar, stir it all together and press into a casserole dish for a delicious baked pasta

Kid Friendly Version

How to Tweak This Recipe for Kids:

  • Perhaps omit red pepper flakes. Consider deconstructing - my young kids loved the pasta dipped into the sauce but wouldn’t accept a stuffed shell. They even took a few forkfuls of the broccoli but not after it was stirred into the cheese ready for stuffing, so along the way, just set some components aside to “keep things separate”

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. Make the broccoli filling
  2. Boil the shells
  3. Stuff and cover (make sauce and pour over before baking)
  4. OR, bake entirely as written and reheat to serve
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