Mashed Potato Stuffed Shells

published Dec 23, 2021
christmas
Mashed Potato Stuffed Shells Recipe

Jumbo shells are stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese for the ultimate carb-in-carb combo.

Serves4 to 6

Prep35 minutes

Cook1 hour 40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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mashed potato stuffed shells
Credit: Melissa Kravitz

I am Jewish, which means I like carbs. As a general rule, our holidays are celebrated with glutinous Ashkenazic gluttony: starches upon starches, grains and potatoes and matzo meal and challahs galore. The spread, with its reliable tan palette, can be found throughout the Jewish diaspora, particularly on tables surrounded by those of Eastern European descent.

After moving to New York City at 18, I found myself surrounded by other family’s traditional holiday foods, adopting their kasha varnishkes and fluffy matzo balls as my own, accepting their avoidance to kishke and perhaps calling my grandma for her cholent recipe when I wanted to make a pot of beans and potatoes to last a whole week. I sought out the foods of my childhood on Jewish holidays, opting for the also traditional Chinatown foray on Christmas and coveted brunch reservation on Easter.

That is, until I met my wife (who also joyously eats matzo balls and challah alongside me, for the record). A year into our relationship, I visited her Pennsylvania hometown for Christmas, unsure what to expect. I’d seen the movies, heard her stories, but what if I ruined the allure of Santa Claus for our little niece? Or, worse, didn’t like the food?

Credit: Melissa Kravitz

On Christmas Day, we visited her aunt’s home, where a cozy spread of their family favorites welcomed us in slow cookers and heating trays across the kitchen counter. It featured sliced ham and potato rolls, cocktail meatballs, baked spaghetti, and a delightful dual-carb concoction completely new to me: potato stuffed shells. A lifelong pasta and potato enthusiast, I likely did a little happy jump, nudging my wife. This was a thing you could do? Potatoes IN pasta? The jumbo shells weren’t merely gnocchi (pasta made with potatoes) or pierogi (potato stuffed dumplings), but two of my favorite things layered into one titillating side dish, reminiscent of the foods my own, very Jewish family celebrates for holidays.

I drizzled some sauce from the meatballs across my styrofoam plate, hefty with the duplex carb vessels, and I was hooked. Ever since, I’ve looked forward to the shells every year, in 2020 making my own version because even a pandemic wasn’t going to stop our carbs-in-carbs Christmas. 

Although we believe the original recipe uses instant mashed potatoes, I used a skin-on, heartier version here, and added some cheese for flavor and gooeyness. Now, my own rendition is in our household’s family cookbook, a melding of my wife’s family holiday food with my flare for finding ways to add starchy foods to anything, and they’re perfect as a side dish, main course, or, well, post-holiday brunch. 

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Mashed Potato Stuffed Shells Recipe

Jumbo shells are stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheese for the ultimate carb-in-carb combo.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-ounce) box

    jumbo pasta shells

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    medium red potatoes

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley

  • 1 tablespoon

    garlic powder

  • 3/4 cup

    whole milk, plus more as needed

  • 3/4 ounce

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1/4 cup)

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more for the pasta and baking dishes

  • Marinara sauce, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells and cook until al dente or 1 to 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss to combine.

  2. Halve 1 1/2 pounds medium red potatoes (no need to peel). Add to the same pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until a fork or knife easily pierces the potatoes, about 30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish and an 8x8-inch baking dish with olive oil. When potatoes are almost done cooking, melt 1/2 stick unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley and 1 tablespoon garlic powder and stir to combine. Add 3/4 cup whole milk and heat until gently simmering. Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and stir until well incorporated. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

  4. When the potatoes are ready, drain. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer into a large bowl, or transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Season with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. While stirring, slowly add the milk mixture to the potatoes.

  5. Using a small spoon, stuff the pasta shells with the potato mixture (if the filling is very thick, thin out with more milk as needed) and divide between the baking dishes in a single layer filling-side up. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Cover the baking dishes tightly with aluminum foil.

  6. Bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more. If you want a crispier top, broil on low for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with warmed marinara sauce, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Rewarm, thinning out with milk as needed, before stuffing the shells.

Using leftover mashed potatoes: This recipe also works well with any leftover mashed potatoes. Gently reheat and loosen with milk or water to make stuffing the shells easier (some moisture will evaporate in the oven, so don’t worry if the potatoes seem wet).

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.