Socially-Acceptable Stuffed Shells

Disclaimer: do not make this recipe unless you are prepared for zero leftovers, or a test of your ultimate willpower.

Take a night off from 2012 resolutions and indulge with good friends, as time is precious and only grants you limited relaxation (I know, your dream of being on vacation full-time has yet to come to fruition).

My friend Sarah and I recently arranged a dinner for four, and had the task of feeding a NFL playoff consumed group. They are hungry, have most likely been in loud open areas full of flat screen TVs and beer, and crave something that provides comfort and familiarity. Our friend Ashley recently suggested this Shells with Crispy Pancetta and Spinach recipe, and deemed it as her “favorite home-cooked dish”. We could not ignore such a recommendation (ask friends for advice, chances are you enjoy similar dishes) and decided it was the perfect option for a Sunday night event. Cozy, comfortable, and easy (and did we mention crowd pleasing?).

Rule Number 1 when entertaining: choose familiar items, which have been tried and successful in the past, that contain simple ingredients. You are guaranteed to have a smooth night since there are no unexpected surprises or difficult prep work required.


1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound thick-cut pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta (we used part-skim and did not notice a major difference in flavor)

1 cup grated asiago cheese

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Sauce (we doubled the original recipe):

2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups cream

4 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/2 cup

1/2 cup grated fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375° fahrenheit.

For the shells:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta. (Note: the shells will cook again once they are baked in the oven – it’s important that they remain very al dente prior to being stuffed with ricotta mixture)

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.

Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture each and place stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat the very low and add the 4 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved.

Pour the sauce over shells. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup asiago cheese. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.




5 responses to “Socially-Acceptable Stuffed Shells

  1. ashley wheeler

    Truly an amazing recipe! So glad to see it’s made its debut!

  2. Caitlin

    Ohhhhhhhhhmyyyyyyyygoshhhhhhh!!!!! YUM!!

  3. judy

    Hello! This sounds amazing. Is it??

  4. judy

    James said he would become the stuffed shell if he ate these. Haha

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