Make This Grown-Up Version of Boxed Mac and Cheese Shells ASAP
Half Baked Harvest’s favorite comfort food.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:53 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan Gerard knows comfort food—and her second cookbook, Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple, is chock-full of such recipes. The twist: They can all be pulled off on even the busiest of days. Before the book officially launches on October 29, we’re giving you a sneak peek at a few of her favorite dishes.
It’s common knowledge that the best cure for a bad day is a bowl of cheesy carbs. Back-to-back meetings? Time to whip up lasagna. Dropped your phone in a puddle outside the subway station? Bring on the carbonara (and probably a trip to the Genius Bar). Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan Gerard is on the same page: Her go-to comfort food is a stuffed shells recipe packed with flavor—and just a hint of nostalgia.
“It’s my version of childhood boxed shells, only now I get to add roasted red peppers and Italian sausage,” says Gerard. “It reminds me of cheese-filled ravioli, but without all the work.”
She fine-tuned the dish by testing it out on family and friends (who we’re sure were quite willing). Now the one-pot meal is a mainstay of any Gerard get-together. With three types of cheese, it will turn even the dreariest of winter days right around—and thanks to the magic of leftovers may even brighten up your desk lunch the following day. We’re already looking forward to dinner.
Spinach and Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells
Serves 6 to 8 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 50 minutes
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb ground spicy Italian sausage
- 2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (plus more as needed)
- 1 8-oz bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 1-lb box jumbo pasta shells
- 16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (plus more for serving)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, torn
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and add the crushed tomatoes, bell pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shells and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Gouda, and basil. Transfer the mix to a gallon-size zip-top bag. Push the mixture into one corner of the bag, squeeze the air out of the top, and snip about ½ inch off that corner.
- Working with one at a time, pipe about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into each shell, then place them in the skillet. Sprinkle the shells evenly with mozzarella.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and is lightly browning on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil to serve. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
Reprinted from Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple. Copyright © 2019 by Tieghan Gerard. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Tieghan Gerard. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
See more fall recipes: If You Have 30 Minutes, You Can Make This Butternut Squash Pizza This Buttery, Herb-Infused Dish Is Instant Nostalgia for One L.A. Chef 6 Weeknight Dinners That Can Be Served in 30 Minutes