Nonna’s Garlic & Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe: No Red Sauce Here | Pasta

Nonna's Garlic & Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe: No Red Sauce Here

I come from a large Italian family filled with wonderful cooks, so I have no shortage of great Italian recipes. It isn’t often that I come across an Italian dish I’ve never had before or a recipe that hasn’t been passed around my family. However, this is one such example.

I was thrilled when a friend shared this stuffed shells recipe with me. Unlike most stuffed pasta recipes, this one doesn’t use a red sauce. I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy your meal!

Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4


  • 2 cups (8 ounces) large pasta shells
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/8 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup baby spinach, roughly torn
  • 4 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Place the pasta shells in a large pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and run shells under cold water to prevent from sticking together.
  2. While the pasta boils, make the cheese sauce. Place butter in a medium-sized saucepan and heat on medium-high heat until melted. Add the flour and stir with a whisk until a smooth paste forms. Add the milk a splash at a time, stirring with the whisk until smooth before adding more. When all of the milk has been added, continue to stir, heating until the sauce thickens.
  3. Once thickened, add all but 3 tablespoons of the cheddar cheese, all of the mozzarella, half of the salt and half of the pepper. Stir until the cheese melts. Turn off the heat.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and add the garlic. Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then add spinach and the remaining salt and pepper. Allow spinach to wilt, stirring occasionally, then add spinach to the cheese sauce.
  5. Place the shells in a baking dish or oven-proof skillet. Using a spoon, carefully fill each shell with the spinach/sauce mixture.
  6. Sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs over the shells, if desired, followed by the remaining cheddar cheese. Place in a preheated 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

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