Lentils give this recipe a hearty boost of protein.
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Giada De Laurentiis on a designed background next to Vegetable Stuffed Shells
Credit: Getty Images / Ethan Miller, Giadzy / Elizabeth Newman

If there's one celebrity chef that we can turn to for pasta inspiration, it's Giada De Laurentiis. Whether she's dishing up a cheesy bowl of pasta alla gricia or just correcting our pasta-making mistakes, De Laurentiis always has delicious insights on the classic pantry ingredient. And now there's yet another Giada pasta recipe we can't wait to try: her Vegetable Stuffed Shells.

De Laurentiis shared the recipe via her blog The Giadzy, where she described this meal as "a deliciously hearty, but still plant-based dinner." For plenty of protein, Giada swaps meat for French lentils, an affordable ingredient our associate nutrition digital editor calls "super healthy." The pasta is also packed with veggies like tomatoes, broccolini and fennel. 

To recreate this recipe, which was originally created as an ad for Hunt's, you'll make your own sauce using olive oil, fresh garlic, two large cans of tomatoes, a carrot, a red onion, basil and salt. Combine those ingredients in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow the sauce to cook for 40 minutes or until reduced by half, then remove the carrot, onion and basil springs and blend the sauce to your desired thickness. (If you want to adapt the recipe for a weeknight, you could trade the homemade sauce for a store-bought jar that's just as healthy and delicious. Our Test Kitchen editors love brands like Rao's and Barilla—just make sure you have about 3 ½ cups (or 28 ounces) of sauce total.)

Making the stuffed pasta is a quicker endeavor, and once you have your shells cooked and filling ready, you could even recruit any kids in the house to help you get the shells stuffed. Once you've cooked the pasta according to package directions, heat a medium skillet on the stovetop and add some olive oil and a chopped shallot. When the shallot is soft, add chopped fennel and broccolini to the pan and cook until everything is tender. Turn off the heat and add your cooked lentils to the pan, stirring to combine. 

When the veggies and lentils have cooled a bit, add in ricotta cheese, oregano, salt and mozzarella cheese. Once your pasta is cool enough to handle, you can get started adding the filling to the center of each shell with a spoon. For a thoroughly saucy dinner, add three cups of your sauce to a casserole dish and then stud the sauce with your stuffed shells. Top the dish with the last of your sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella. Then bake the pasta at 400°F for 25 minutes.

You'll end up with a low-calorie, high-protein dish that's sure to satisfy everyone at your dinner table. "I made this tonight, it was FANTASTIC!," one reviewer shared. Other commenters on Giada's Instagram post chimed in with "yum!" and "would love to have some right now." Honestly, same.

If you're craving these saucy shells but want to add some meat to the mix, recipes like our Stuffed Shells with Ground Beef, Chicken and Eggplant Stuffed Shells and Ham & Chard Stuffed Shells are delicious, healthy picks. Serve them up with our Best Caesar Salad with Crispy Parmesan for a meal you won't soon forget.