Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baked Shells Casserole

The cold winds of winter are starting to loom in the horizon.  So, it's that time of the year where you want the hearty "stick to your ribs" food that warms you from the inside out.  This Baked Shells Casserole fits the bill and it will totally keep your family satisfied and asking for more.

3 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
2 medium onions, finely chopped, divided
Salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
1 Tbs dried basil  or a large handful fresh basil minced
1-2 tsp brown sugar
1lb of lean ground meat (beef, chicken or pork)
1lb box of medium size pasta shells
1 jar favorite pasta sauce (45oz bottle)
1 cup chicken broth or bullion and water equivalent  
1lb bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
Freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/4 teaspoon
3 cups fresh cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten or 1/3 cup egg substitute
8oz of shredded mozzarella cheese


To make the pasta shells layer:
First defrost your spinach and wring dry.  Then saute 1 medium onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil. Added spinach, grated nutmeg and season with a little salt. Once this step is done, set it aside and go onto the next step.

Boil the pasta shells until they 1 minute shy of al dente. The pasta will finish cooking with the other ingredients in the oven.

Now mix the Parmesan cheese and cottage cheese together in a large bowl. You will eventually use this bowl to toss the pasta and spinach so make sure you have plenty of room to move.

Then mix in the sauteed spinach with the ricotta cheese and parmesan mixture.  To help everything bind add 1/3 of a cup of egg substitute or 2 egg yolks beaten.

Now add the pasta shells and gently mix all the ingredients together.  Set aside to assemble in the casserole dish with your meat sauce.

To make the meat sauce:
Brown your lean ground meat (I used ground chicken) with medium onion and 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped in two tablespoons of olive oil.

Season meat with:
* Salt and pepper to taste
*  dried oregano
* crushed red pepper flakes
* dried basil
* brown sugar

 Add 1 jar favorite pasta sauce and one cup of chicken broth (I just measured the broth  in the pasta jar so I could rinse all the sauce out of the jar)

 Simmer the sauce on medium heat for 10 minutes.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and if everything is good, turn the stove off and start assembling the casserole.

Assembling the Casserole

 In a large oven safe baking dish spoon 2/3 of the pasta sauce.

 Next put all of the pasta/spinach/cheese combo in an even layer.

 Top the dish with the remaining 1/3 of pasta sauce

Sprinkle with 8oz of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees on the middle rack for 25-30 minutes.


 Serves 6-8 people.  Enjoy.


  1. wat a fantastic n delicious treat...absolutely mouthwatery..;)
    Tasty Appetite

  2. Comfort food! Comfort food! Comfort food! I'm doing the happy dance over this one. It looks so, so good. Yes, it's cold here, though we're not expecting snow, thank goodness. Stay warm!

  3. I have two words for you.... YES, PLEEEEAAASSE! :D This is my kind of food!

  4. Fabulous and Delicious Baked Casserole recipe Dear.Luv it.

  5. I love warm, cozy comfort food dishes like this. Yummy!

  6. Oh, this is much easier than stuffed shells and just as yummy! You got some nice stumbles on this one :)

  7. What a classic - so comforting - takes me back to elementary school days.

  8. Mmm, that looks good--the definition of comfort food!

  9. This looks so flavorful! Mmm...perfect fall dish for cozying up with loved ones!

  10. That looks wonderful! Great weekend food from the sound sof it :)

  11. Ramona...I woke up to snow on my deck here in the DC area! So this looks like the perfect comfort food for the day! You know what I love? How in one recipe you are using both brown sugar and red pepper flakes! This is a beautiful dish and I bet it tastes incredible! : )

  12. Hello! I followed footsteps and arrived here in your blog. What a nice surprise to find original receipts. I'll be back! Regards from Paula, São Paulo, Brasil

  13. Wow! I love this. Talk about comfort food. We sure could use it right now with this crazy weather. Thanks for Sharing.

  14. This looks so good. I am hopping on a plane now to stop by for dinner.

  15. fantastic dish! real comfort food!

  16. Ramona - this sounds FANTASTIC! It's just perfect for a cold day...or any day! I love pasta dishes and casseroles!

  17. wow!! fantastic looking dish!! I am sure it is yummy!!

  18. This is delicious looking and sounds worthy of a good meal.

    I have been looking through some of your recipes. I can either hire you to cook them or get myself busy in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing these.

  19. I love baked shells,dont be surprised if you see this on my blig soon,LOL.

  20. I would enjoy so much to come home to a dinner like that waiting for me. The first snow fell this weekend and all I need to feel better is a very warm and gooey dinner.

  21. Yup, this looks incredibly good! This does look so hearty for a colder night. I would love to eat a big bowl of it right now!

  22. Ohh that casserole is calling my name:))) what a great recipe..yummy! Congrats on top 9!

  23. Wow looks yummy and delicious .... Very tempting clicks ....

  24. This looks really good, but "one jar of pasta sauce" is a little vague. My store has 3 different sizes.

  25. I updated the recipe to reflect about a 45oz jar of pasta sauce. Hope that helps. :)

  26. well now I have to have pasta for dinner, great lol

  27. I wish I could have a HUGE helping of that right now! I could probably eat that whole casserole by myself. What a great family meal!

  28. These shells are packed with so much yummy stuff. Great job with this Ramona.


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