Unstuffed Shells

We found ourselves craving Stuffed Shells, but we just didn’t have the time to make them since we had a lot to do the other day. The good news is that we made it happen with a quick bit of outside the box (shell?) thinking! Instead of filling shells with customary deliciousness, we built the filling and sauce and then added small shells, and let everything come together in the crockpot.

With all of the veggies in this dish, we decided to skip a side, but if you prefer to have one, a side salad or some steamed cauliflower would be really good with this.

Time: 5 Hours (60 minutes if you opt to skip the crockpot part or use premade tomato sauce).


  • Ground Meat. We used pork for our shells, but beef, turkey, chicken, mutton, and venison would all work.
  • Tomato Sauce. We made ours with:
    • 1 Quart Canned Tomatoes
    • Onion
    • Cremini Mushrooms
    • Zucchini
    • Garlic
    • 3 Ounces Tomato Paste
    • A little Salt
    • A little Honey or Sugar (to cut the natural acidity of the tomatoes)
    • Oodles of Basil and Oregano
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Small Pasta Shells
  • Optional: Shredded Mozzarella and/or Parmesan Cheese to melt overtop to finish


  • Add your ground meat (and a little oil if it’s really lean meat) to a large pot, and cook until browned.
  • As your meat cooks, dice all of your tomato sauce vegetables (not the tomatoes).
  • When your meat is done cooking, transfer your meat with a slotted spoon to your crockpot. Drain excess fat from your pan.
  • Add your onions, garlic, zucchini, and mushrooms to the pot you used to cook your meat, and sautee them until everything softens (about 10-15 minutes). Part way through the cook time, add and stir in your basil and oregano.
  • When your veggies are soft, pour in your canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to combine, and then add in a little salt and honey or sugar. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • As your sauce simmers, boil some water, and add your shells. Cook until soft, and then drain and pour into your crockpot with your meat.
  • When your veggies are ready, puree them with an immersion blender or a food processor, and then pour your sauce into the crockpot over your meat and pasta. Stir to combine.
  • Then, scoop in some ricotta cheese, and stir it in completely.
  • Set your crockpot to “warm,” and let everything go for 4-5 hours.
  • Plate, top with shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese, devour, and enjoy!

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