Starting Simple: Stuffed Shells with Kale and Roasted Garlic

Tonight is a rich, decadent treat at the house – stuffed shells! Its in honor of my in-laws who are spending the night as they make their way from Columbus, Ohio to India for a few weeks of vacation and visiting family. The recipe for stuffed shells is usually pretty standard, but I change it up by adding kale and roasted garlic for the filling.


I start by roasting garlic and cooking the kale for a few minutes. Like everyone else on the planet, I have become obsessed with kale and use it every chance I can get.


Roasted kale and garlic for the filling

Then once I mix in the kale with the different cheeses including fresh mozzarella, I am ready to fill the shells.


The creamy cheese and kale filling

Stuffing is probably the most time consuming part. But its worth it for the yummy goodness that awaits.


Shells are all stuffed!

Once its all done, I top it off with my special tomato sauce and some fresh basil from my herb garden (I just started this herb garden, so not sure how successful I will be!)


Ready for the oven

Prep Time: 30 minutes    Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4


  • 1 box of stuffed shells
  • 1 bunch Kale (finely cut and ribbed)
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg beaten (optional) 
  • 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup of cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (you can add more if you like it hot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce (see my sauce recipe below or sub for your own awesome tomato sauce recipe. A jar of your favorite sauce will also be just fine!)
  • 2-3 leaves fresh Basil


  1. Cook the shells according to the package. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Get the kale ready by making sure there are no stems (that can make the kale really bitter) and massaging it with your hands for a few minutes. Add some honey to draw out the bitterness if you would like. Even though its going to be cooked and not served raw, this helps!
  3. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a sauce pan on low-medium heat. Add the cut garlic and roast until it turns golden brown (2 minutes tops).
  4. Add the kale and let it cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, take off the heat just as its about to wilt.
  5. In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese along with the egg and the cooked kale and garlic. Also add the two teaspoons of water to help with combining.
  6. Mix in the seasonings of  black pepper, chili pepper flakes, salt, paprika and oregano.
  7. Spray the bottom of a 13X9 inch pan with cooking spray and pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  8. Fill each of the stuffed shells with the kale/cheese mixture (about a tablespoon of mixture into each shell) and place in the pan, keeping the pieces close together.
  9. Pour tomato sauce on top (as saucy as you want it!)
  10. Mix together the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese with basil (fresh if you have it) and sprinkle on top.
  11.  Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden. Ready to serve!

My tomato sauce:

I love, love, love pasta and tomato sauce. I try all different jar brands when I am in a pinch (I am no stranger to Ragu, honestly!) and have tried perfecting my own version over the years. Its ever evolving, but I am pretty happy with this version.

I start by cutting up all the vegetables that I need for the base of the sauce.


Chopped veggies are always so pretty and colorful!

Then I add the sauce and vegetable broth and let it simmer.


Sauce is set to simmer

My last step is to add a tiny bit of cream and some sriracha for a kick.


Creamy and zingy, the way I like my tomato sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 40 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 of a large onion (whichever type you like) or 1 whole small one, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (I use sea salt, but use whatever you like)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 2 cans of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon light cream (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of sriracha sauce to add a kick (optional)


  1. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into saucepan on medium heat
  2. Throw in onions and garlic and saute (2 minutes or so)
  3. Add in the carrot and bell pepper and continue to saute, season with salt, pepper, oregano (3 or 4 more minutes)
  4. Pour in the tomato sauce, vegetable broth and add the two teaspoons of sugar
  5. Add the basil and simmer on low heat for about 30-40 minutes until sauce is thick
  6. Optional: Add light cream and sriracha and cook for another 5 minutes

12 thoughts on “Starting Simple: Stuffed Shells with Kale and Roasted Garlic

  1. Karen says:

    I’m going to try this recipe and I will let you know how it goes. How can I resist something wht ricotta, cottage and parmesan??? And good to know about Kale. I never realized that and its probably intruded on so many of my meals!


  2. Chef Tawa says:

    Looks yummy! Kale is am everyday vegetable in Zimbabwe (where I’m originally from) but its barely consumed in the African countries I’ve lived in or visited. Nice to see a fresh take on what I’d grown to think of as a mundane and boring veggie!

    Liked by 1 person

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