My Garden Mural

Garden Shell Pasta Bake

 This recipe was inspired by My Garden by Kevin Henkes. To learn more about the book and to see all of our My Garden activities, click here.

The little girl in My Garden plants everything from jellybeans to seashells. This stuffed shell recipe takes that imagined crop and turns it into a delicious baked pasta dish!


Young Readers in the Kitchen

This recipe provides so many opportunities for young reader participation. Kid friendly steps include counting out the shells (you need about 22), mashing the sweet potato, stirring together the filling, filling the shells, pouring sauce in the dish, and nestling stuffed shells in baking dish. 

You can also cook the sweet potato and pasta before bringing young reader into the kitchen.


Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 1: Cook pasta
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 2: Make Sweet Potato, Ricotta, and Spinach Filling
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 3: Pour pasta sauce in dish
Garden Shell Pasta Bake
Step 4: Fill shells and "plant" in sauce
Garden Shell Pasta Bake - My Garden by Kevin Henkes - Off the Shelf
Step 5: Bake!


Garden Shell Pasta Bake


  • Jumbo shells (you will need about 22, but I like to cook a couple more in case some break)
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
  • 15 ounces part skim ricotta
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 jar pasta sauce

1. Cook pasta according to package directions for prebaked cook time. Drain and toss with oil to keep pasta from sticking together. Set aside until cool enough to handle. 

 2. Cook sweet potato one of 3 ways:

  • Pierce several times with a fork and microwave until tender. 
  • Peel and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Boil until done, about 15 minutes. 
  • Pierce whole potato several times with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done, about 45 minutes. 

3. Halve sweet potato. Scoop out flesh (discarding skin) and place in a large bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, salt and pepper. Roughly chop or tear spinach and stir into filling mixture. 

4. Pour pasta sauce in a 13-by-9 casserole dish.

5. Fill each shell with about 3 tablespoon of filling. Place in dish. Repeat until dish is filled.

6. Cover and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Bake for 15 more minutes. 


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