Nonna's Special Garlic & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe (No Red Sauce) by Ann Marie Patitucci

Pasta Dinner Vegetarian
9 months ago

Nonna's Special Garlic & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe (No Red Sauce)

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 garlic and spinach stuffed shells recipe is one such example.

I was thrilled when a friend shared her grandma's stuffed shells recipe with me. Unlike most stuffed pasta recipes, this one doesn't use a red sauce. These easy stuffed shells are made with large pasta shells, butter, flour, milk, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, garlic, fresh baby spinach and optional panko breadcrumbs.

Serve these pasta shells for dinner with a salad and fresh breadsticks or garlic bread. I hope you enjoy these spinach-stuffed shells as much as we do. Bon appetit!

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
  • 2/3 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
  • 4 ounces 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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Baking Pans
Baking Pans $8 & Up
Flour $2 & Up
Olive Oil
Olive Oil $4 & Up
Panko $2 & Up

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Donna John
This sounds absolutely delicious!!! Adding it to my "must-make" list.
There’s nothing I don’t love about this recipe. 😍
Elisa Schmitz
Stuffed shells, ultimate comfort food. So so delicious, Ann Marie Patitucci !
Just got back from the store where I picked up the items I did not have to make this ...getting ready to get started on it now. Meal prepping day for me today.

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