These beef and vegetable stuffed shells are a delicious and easy way to get more protein and vegetables into your little one’s growing bellies. You might be thinking, “I don’t have time during the day to be stuffing individual shells when I have a little human being attached to my hip!” No problem! You can make this dish ahead of time. AND it freezes beautifully too! I made everything the night before and baked it right before lunch the next day.
Broccoli continues to be my baby’s least favorite vegetable so I snuck it in here along with zucchini and spinach. Feel free to substitute/add whatever vegetables you’d like to the filling! I used grass-fed beef, and boy does it taste rich and flavorful! If you don’t want to add beef, you can swap out with chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon, etc. Want to make it vegetarian? Just leave it out all together and perhaps add beans and/or lentils. Don’t like ricotta cheese? Try using cottage cheese or Greek yogurt instead. All this to say, this recipe is super customizable. All you need is a creamy filling, some shells to stuff them in, and you’re good to go!
As always, I’ve included some suggestions in parentheses for those of you doing baby led weaning and are extra cautious of the sodium content.
Kid-Friendly Beef and Vegetable Stuffed Shells
- 21 large shells cooked according to package instructions and cooled (make extra as some may break)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 zucchini chopped
- 1 cup frozen broccoli florets thawed and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt and pepper (can leave out)
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 10 oz. frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup fresh basil roughly chopped
- 2 cups favorite marinara sauce or no salt added tomato sauce
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese can add less if you want
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Heat a large pan. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up chunks, for about 2-3 min. Add zucchini, broccoli, garlic and saute until softened, about 5 min. or so. add tomato paste and oregano and stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Stir in ricotta, spinach, and basil.
- Spread some tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Spoon filling into each shell and place them open side up into the dish. Fit them together snuggly. Pour remaining sauce over top, sprinkle with cheese.
- Cover and bake for 20-25 min. Remove foil and bake for additional 10 min.
You can make prepare the shells the night before, cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve the next day, add about 5 more minutes to the baking time. You can freeze unbaked shells for a month or so. Cover tightly with plastic wrap then with foil and place in the freezer. Thaw completely in the fridge, about 24 hours, then follow the instructions above.