Healthy cheese and veggie stuffed pasta shells made ahead for an easy freezer family meal.
RED PEPPER SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS
This classic red pepper spinach stuffed shell recipe starts with ricotta cheese made super flavorful by adding roasted red peppers and spinach. Add homemade marinara sauce and a thick layer of melted mozzarella cheese and you’ll have everyone asking for seconds! The whole dish will take about 45 minutes to prepare, but can also be made ahead of time and baked straight from the freezer. And you know how I love those freezer meals!
Stuffed shells and sauce is true comfort food. Go ahead and make that marinara sauce yourself too. It only takes about 10 minutes and keeps for several days in the fridge….or freeze a few batches so you’ll always have it handy.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE RED PEPPER SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS
This is an easy recipe that gets a lot of flavor from the veggies and sauce! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Jumbo Shells
- Roasted Peppers from a jar
- Ricotta Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
- Marinara Sauce
- Mozzarella Cheese
PRO TIPS FOR MAKING STUFFED SHELLS
- They may look complicated, but making stuffed shells is very simple. The key is to boil the shells only until al dente. That will keep them firm enough to stuff and not fall apart on you as you handle them.
- Take a few minutes and chop the dried spinach into small pieces. This helps to stuff the shells evenly and when biting into the shell, the spinach doesn’t pull out in strings.
- An easy way to stuff the shells is to hold the shell in one hand, scoop and fill with the other. After loading the spoon with filling, fit the spoon in the shell opening and use the edge of the shell to scrape off the spoon. Repeat and then use the spoon to smooth and even out the filling in the shell. I like to put 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in each shell.
- If you are freezing extra batches, as you fill the shells lay them out on parchment paper. When finished filling, add the filled shells to the pans with marinara in the bottom. This gives you an opportunity to pick and choose which shells (in case some are torn or broken) to put in which pan before the bottom of the shells have marinara sauce on them.
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BAKING RED PEPPER SPINACH STUFFED SHELLS FREEZER MEALS
There are two ways to bake your stuffed shell freezer meals. The meal can be thawed in the refrigerator or baked straight from the freezer. The only real difference is the time it takes in the oven.
To Bake Thawed Stuffed Shells
Remove the plastic wrap and foil cover. Place the pan uncovered in a preheated 375°F oven. Bake the shells for 40 – 45 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Check the center of pan to be sure the stuffed shells are heated thru. Continue baking and checking every 5 minutes until center is hot. An instant read thermometer should read between 150°F and 160°F for the food to be hot enough to serve.
To Bake Frozen Stuffed Shells
Remove the plastic wrap but leave on the foil cover. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the shells covered for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Then remove the foil cover and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Check the center of pan to make sure stuffed shells are heated thru. Continue baking and checking every 5 minutes until center is hot. The instant read thermometer should read 150°F to 160°F for the food to be hot enough to serve.
Freezer safe foil pans are a super time saver when making freezer meals. Clean up is a snap and you don’t tie up your baking pans. This pack comes with foil lids making it even easier to prep those freezer meals.
- Foil Pans – disposable, deep 9 x 13 pans with their own lids make freezer meals extra easy to prepare.
- EverSharp Pro Chef’s Knife – it’s my go-to knife….perfect 8-inch blade for all your kitchen cutting, slicing and chopping without ever needing sharpened!
- Freezer Container Labels – peel and stick come in a 2 roll pack; easy to remove!
Red Pepper and Spinach Stuffed Shells
- 12 ounce jumbo pasta shells about 24 shells
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup frozen spinach thawed and dried
- 1/3 cup roasted red peppers diced (from a jar)
- 3 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray a 9 x 13 baking pan.
- Cook shells in large pot of boiling salted water for 9 minutes. Drain pasta.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, red peppers, parmesan cheese and parsley. Salt and pepper filling mix to taste.
- Spread 1-1/2 cups marina sauce in bottom of prepared pan. Stuff each shell with 2 tablespoons of filling. Place filled shells on top of marinara sauce in pan. You may need to scrunch in the shells. Spread remaining marinara sauce over the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake on center shelf of oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 – 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
MAKE AHEAD FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS:
- Prepare stuffed shells thru Step 4. DO NOT BAKE. Cover pan with aluminum foil, then wrap entire pan in plastic wrap or place in large freezer bag. Keeps in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking, or bake right from the freezer.
- To Bake Thawed Stuffed Shells
- Remove plastic wrap and foil cover. Place uncovered in preheated 375°F oven. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Check the center of pan to make sure stuffed shells are heated thru. Continue baking and checking every 5 minutes until center is hot.
- To Bake Frozen Stuffed Shells
- Remove plastic wrap but leave foil cover. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake covered for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Remove foil cover and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Check the center of pan to make sure stuffed shells are heated thru. Continue baking and checking every 5 minutes until center is hot.
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