When I was a kid my grandparents used to take our family out to dinner every single Saturday night. For years. They continued after I went to college. Everyone knew they were always invited. Dinner was at 5pm, give or take a half hour. Sometimes all 10 of us were there, sometimes 6, but the number didn’t matter. 90% of the time they let one of 4 grandkids pick the restaurant. For many years my brother and I were the only grandkids, which meant I got to choose a lot. I can’t even begin to explain how generous [among other things] my grandparents were. I could write a book about it.
Anyway. There was one Italian restaurant we went to time + time again. Fazios! I was kind of a picky kid growing up. Not terrible but not great. My parents probably remember more specifics. So, at this one specific restaurant I would always order stuffed shells.
Three jumbo stuffed shells. Filled with ricotta cheese and smothered in red sauce. We probably ate there 30 times over the course of Saturday dinners and that is the only thing I ever ate. I tried to branch out once but regretted my decision.
Now how is it possible that I’ve never made stuffed shells at home? Really, they are too easy.
So what’s with the spaghetti squash in the recipe? Well, I decided to spruce things up a bit. My taste buds have evolved since I was a kid, and I figured the recipe should reflect that.
The spaghetti squash does make this a bit of a more time intensive recipe, but the hands on time barely changes. Plan a night where you’ll have a bit more time to be in the kitchen. You can also prep the squash [and sauce!] a day or two ahead and have it ready to go.
If you aren’t typically a pasta lover I urge you to give this a try. I would relate it more to lasagna.
If you sort of like spaghetti squash but don’t like scarfing down an entire bowl of it, this may be more your speed.
It adds a lovely little crunch with every bite.
I was obsessed with every single bite of this comforting meal. The best part? There are piles of leftovers! Unless you invite grandma + grandpa over…I wish!
Spaghetti Squash Stuffed Shells
gluten-free option // serves about 6
- 1 medium spaghetti squash [3 cups cooked]
- 1 box jumbo pasta shells [gluten free if needed – this box had 4 servings]
- about 48ozthick pasta sauce [or 1 1/2 standard jars]
- 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
- 2 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach
- 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- parmesan cheese
- oil/salt/pepper [for the squash]
- Preheat your oven to 400*.
- Slice your spaghetti squash lengthwise and rub the inside and rims with about 1/2 tablespoon of oil [for each half] and sprinkle with salt + pepper.
- Place on a parchment lined pan cut side down and roast for 45-55min until tender and the squash can be easily pulled apart with a fork.
- Flip over and let cool for 10-15min then pull the squash out with the help of a fork. Set aside.
- While the squash is baking, cook your pasta shells according to package directions. Rinse with cold water to help prevent sticking. *Make sure not to overcook because they will cook a bit more in the oven.
- Mix the spaghetti squash, ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper until combined. Start with 1/4t salt + pepper. Taste, then add more if needed.
- Preheat your oven to 350* and take out a 9x13 pan and a 9x9 pan.
- Pour out just enough sauce to coat the bottom of each pan.
- Stuff each shell [carefully] until the filling is flush with the bottom. ~30-32 shellsThe amount may vary depending on what brand you use. I used Tinkyada, which are the only GF shells I can find.
- Place the shells stuffed side down in the pan so that they are slightly touching one another.
- Coat each shell with about 2 tablespoons [heaping scoop] of sauce and spread around.
- Cover with foil and bake for 15min. Then uncover and bake for 10min.
- Turn your broiler on low, sprinkle the tops with parmesan, and broil for 3-5 minutes watching closely until the cheese is bubbly.
- Garnish with fresh rosemary, basil, or parsley if desired.
notes: Make sure to use a thick pasta sauce to avoid excess liquid in the pan. I made a double batch of my favorite red sauce recipe with fresh rosemary, simmered it for 20 minutes, blended it with my immersion blender, then let it simmer for 30 more minutes until it was nice and thick. The brand of shells I mentioned above worked perfectly. Their texture was great and they didn’t fall apart at all.
I prepped the squash and sauce the night before with a total hands on time of about 15 minutes. Totally worth it!
Time for dessert. I mean leftovers.