Meatless Monday: Broccoli & Shells

A well-stocked pantry can help you on days when time is not on your side – and eating out is not an option.  Keeping ingredients on hand to whip up a dish like Broccoli & Shells below can happen in under thirty minutes when you stock the right ingredients.  For example, I always keep an array of whole grains available, such as whole grain pasta, brown or wild rice, quinoa (technically not a grain but for all intents and purposes will be counted as such), oatmeal, etc.  Stocking with high-quality extra virgin olive oil, some canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, as well as beans can help you create a variety of meal combinations in no time at all.

Stocking your fridge each week is essential too – and obviously its ideal to fill it with ingredients you plan to use for your pre-planned menu (more help on that in future blogs).  But I also like to buy a few extra veggies, like a head or two of broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, or tri-colored peppers.  Chopped into a salad or slaw, or sautéed with onions, veggies like these can be just what you need to round out a meal.

Experiment, have fun, and remember to keep at least Monday meatless!


Broccoli & Shells

Serves 6-8


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ white onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

14.5-ounce can tomato sauce

14.5-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 cup water

2 Tbsp tomato paste

pinch of oregano

pinch of marjoram

2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tsp sugar

12 oz fresh broccoli florets

1 pound whole wheat pasta shells

freshly grated parmesan cheese


1.  Bring  a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add shells and cook according to package directions, approximately 10-12 minutes or until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside in a large bowl.

2.  In a pot or deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye to prevent browning of garlic.  Add tomato sauce and both cans of diced tomatoes and let simmer for a minute.  Then whisk together tomato paste and the water and add to the mixture, letting simmer for a few minutes.  Mix in oregano, marjoram, basil, red pepper flakes and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Let simmer for a few minutes.

3.  Cook broccoli lightly (making sure it still has crispness to it) in a number of ways:  (1) In a steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water OR (2) in a microwave safe dish OR (3) saute with a bit of olive oil in a pan.  Season with salt and pepper and toss in with pasta shells.

4.  If you prefer a smoother marinara sauce like I do, grab an immersion blender and carefully blend the sauce to desired consistency right from the pot; OR place sauce in batches in a food processor and process to desired consistency.

5.  Mix sauce in with shells and broccoli and serve immediately.  This sauce has a nice kick to it thanks to the red pepper flakes and fire roasted tomatoes.  Top with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy!

This recipe makes so much I was able to serve it to my son in a Coleman thermos (yes, warm) for his school lunches the following two days!  He loved it.


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