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Skinnier Stuffed Shells are packed with flavor and a velvety-smooth filling. They’re made skinnier by using fat-free cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and part-skim mozzarella cheese!
Friday nights at my house are family fun nights! This means 2 things: Italian comfort food and the 4 of us cuddling under a blanket while watching movies! I love whipping up Italian favorites like New York Style Pizza, Sausage and Peppers Pasta, Pepperoni Calzones, and Chicken and Gnocchi Soup on these nights.
This past weekend I made these Skinnier Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce. I wanted to make one of my favorite Italian dishes, but make it skinnier to accommodate my health goals that I set for this year.
Let me tell you, this skinnier stuffed shells recipe is delicious! The filling is light, creamy, and it almost melts in your mouth. The entire family LOVED this recipe, and the best thing is you can make these up to 2 days ahead of time!
If you love this recipe, then you’ll want to check out my Skinnier Lasagna Roll-Ups with Mushrooms and Spinach, too!
How to Make Skinnier Stuffed Shells Recipe:
- Boil shells and let them dry on a towel-lined cookie sheet. Prepare the filling.
- Place filling in a plastic bag. Snip off the corner and fill each shell with 2 tablespoons of filling.
- Place half of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Nestle in the shells.
- Cover with remaining meat sauce.
- Bake for 35 minutes, then top with 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
- Garnish and serve!
Recipe Questions Answered:
What’s the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?
Manicotti and stuffed shells are very similar. Both kinds of pasta are stuffed but the difference is in the particulars of how each is made. Manicotti is made with large tubes to hold the delicious stuffing. Manicotti is typically about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Some people even use lasagna noodles to wrap around the stuffing.
On the other hand, stuffed shells are made with, you guessed it, shells! The stuffing in the jumbo shells is about the amount equal to the size of an egg. Both manicotti and stuffed shells are topped with a sauce after the insides have been filled with the stuffing.
Can you freeze stuffed shells?
Yes! Freezing stuffed shells is the best! It is such a delicious meal I always try to make an extra batch at the same time to have an easy meal on hand for a busy night another time. It’s like two for the price of one! One night of prep work for two nights of meals!
To freeze the stuffed shells, assemble the shells but instead of baking the shells, cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and then again with tin foil. To save yourself a little time on the night of pulling out these stuffed shells from your freezer be sure to make yourself a note on the tin foil to remind you of the directions. That way you do not have to go searching for the recipe, it will be right there for you!
You can make the following note on the foil: “Skinnier Stuffed Shells: remove plastic, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly.” Easy peasy! These will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months. One last tip for you when recovering your stuffed shells, I highly recommend spraying the foil first as the cheese may stick if it touches the foil.
- pasta pot – This one is great because you can drain the pasta in the pot.
- large skillet
- wooden spoon – This spoon is perfect for getting into the curved edges of the skillet.
- 9×13-inch pan – This one had a lid that comes with it which makes storing leftovers super easy!
- food processor – I’ve had a few food processors over the years and this one is the best. It’s powerful, quality, and a real workhorse in my kitchen.
Skinnier Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 8 ounces lean ground beef
- 1 24-ounce jar pasta sauce
- 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
- 10 saltines broken into pieces
- 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- Move oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook shells as per package instructions until al dente. Drain shells and transfer to kitchen towel-lined baking sheet. Reserve 24 shells, discarding any that have broken.
MAKE MEAT SAUCE:
- While shells cook, make meat sauce. In large skillet over medium heat add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat and add sauce. Mix until combined.
- Spread half meat sauce into bottom or 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or any other, large 3-quart pan); set aside.
- Pulse crackers in food processor until finely ground. Add cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and process until smooth.
- Place mixture into quart-sized plastic bag, seal and snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe 2 tablespoons filling into each shell.
- Nestle filled shells, seam side up, on top of meat sauce. Evenly distribute remaining sauce over shells. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake until bubbling around edges, 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
- Bake until cheese is just melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil. Serve.
This post first appeared on Food Folks and Fun on January 11, 2016. I have since updated the pictures. One of the original pictures is below.