Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Shells #slowcooker #recipe

LESLIE: I’m a late-comer to the slow cooker.

So late, I think I’ve used the small slow cooker that was a gift for my first wedding once in nearly thirty years. Mr. Right and I have used the larger cooker that came from my mother maybe once a winter the last few years, for his Guinness stew.

This recipe may change my ways.

What I particularly appreciated is that the shells don’t need to be cooked in advance; when covered with sauce, they cook thoroughly. (You’re familiar with this problem in connection with lasagna, right? Let me recommend no-boil noodles. But I digress.)

I found this in a Woman’s Day magazine, either at my mother’s or at the dentist. The main change I made was to use part-skim ricotta instead of the cottage cheese called for. I see no nutritional advantage to the original recipe, and much taste advantage to my tweak. Depending on what size your shells are, you may have enough filling left for another batch, which could be cooked and frozen.

You’ll note that the ingredients include no herbs or spices. Many jarred marinara sauces come spiced, and any variety will do. If yours is just tomatoes, add what you like—a tablespoon or two of an Italian herb blend would be just right.

Serve with a green salad and you’ll be happy. And you’ll have extras for lunch.

Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Shells

1 cup part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese or Parmesan
2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella, coarsely grated (about 1 1/4 cup) (divided use)
1 10-oz. pkg frozen broccoli, thawed, squeezed of excess moisture and chopped
1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups marinara sauce (season if necessary; see note above)
16 large shells, uncooked (#95 or larger)

In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese, Romano, lemon zest, and 1/2 cup mozzarella; fold in the broccoli, spinach and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine 2 cups marinara and 1/2 cup water. Fill the shells with the  cheese mixture (about 3 tablespoons per shell), using the side of the spoon to push and pack in the filling. Place the filled shells in the slow cooker, then spoon the remaining cup of sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and cook, covered, on low until the shells are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Spoon into pasta bowls or on to plates to serve.

From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink, 2018, available for pre-order now):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. I use my slow cooker often, but never for pasta dishes. This looks like an easy and delicious pasta recipe to try out in it.

  2. I used to use my slow cooker a lot, but I have almost stopped using it. Usually too much food and my husband is not a big fan of leftovers. LOL

    1. The large yield used to seem like a drawback to me, but now that we both work at home, we like the leftovers for lunches.

  3. I have mostly used my slow cooker to cook up beans. Never considered doing a pasta dish in and am intrigued. Also, looks like a good way to sneak broccoli into a child or two!

  4. This looks good Leslie! Normal supposed to be boiled pasta actually cooks all the way? I tried making lasagna with the no-cook pasta years ago and I wound up with crunchy lasagna. I'll have to try this out!

  5. I like the idea of the slow cooker, but often what I'm cooking (stews and such) cook just as well on top of the stove.
    This looks like a good option. I wouldn't have thought you could get the filling in without boiling the shells first. Nice to know since that's an annoying step with hot shells to hold.

    Is you cooker set for low or high for this timing?
    You left the cottage cheese in the instructions.

  6. I love broccoli & eat it pretty much every day. This looks like a yummy way to mix it up.

  7. Looks great. I love that you dont have to cook the shells first. It sounds easy too. I love the slow cooker. Prefer to cook in it rather than on the stove or even in the oven!! Thanks for the new recipe

  8. Like Libby, I long thought "why bother? I can make that on the stove top." But once I started using the slow cooker, like Kay, I realized how much easier it is -- you have to think about dinner earlier, but once you do, you have to think of it less often, which is a real boon for a writer!

  9. This sounds amazing, I think I'm going to have to put it on the grocery list for this week and make it. Yum! Thanks for sharing Leslie!

  10. Leslie, I had to tell you... Hubs and I just made this for dinner tonight and it was amazing! So tasty!