Shells and Cheese with Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas

Shells and Cheese with Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas Picture

Do you ever crave something familiar, something maybe from your childhood, which came straight from a box, like shells and cheese?  I know I do but I usually turn the craving into a creation of something similar yet…different.   I always loved shells and cheese as a kid.  What kid doesn't?  Just because you're older doesn't mean you can't still eat it.  Let's just try it in a little healthier fashion.  

This recipe for shells and cheese is both tasty and healthy, with added spinach, roasted cauliflower, and chickpeas.  We love this recipe around my house.  It's hearty and tastes great as leftovers.  Double the recipe to make a large batch that you could use for some on-the-go lunches or on a jam-packed weeknight when cooking isn't an option.

Shells and Cheese with Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas

serves 6 people

35 minutes



1 head of cauliflower, roasted with 2 cloves of garlic and olive oil

1 bag of whole wheat pasta shells

3 generous handfuls of spinach

1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 cup cheddar cheese

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (or just 1 1/2 cup cheddar)

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pasta water

1 cup pasta water, reserved

1/4 cup parmesan, to serve on top of the pasta

freshly ground pepper to taste

optional: 1 teaspoon oregano, and/or a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (for those who like it a little spicy)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces and spread evenly onto a baking sheet.  Mince the 2 cloves of garlic over the cauliflower and drizzle the cauliflower with the 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then roast for 25 minutes or until slightly brown. 

Bring a large pot of water to boil with a pinch or two of salt.  Once boiling, add in the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes. In the last minute of cooking, add in the spinach. Drain pasta and spinach, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water (might been greenish in color but that's okay).  In a separate bowl, combine cheddar, mozzarella, milk, flour, and salt.  Place the pasta back into the large pot and add in the chickpeas and cooked cauliflower.  Pour the cheese/milk mixture over the pasta and stir until well combined. Add the pasta water if more liquid is needed. 

Top with optional oregano and/or crushed red pepper (if you like it spicy).  Ladle the pasta into individual bowls and garnish each serving with parmesan.

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Shells and Cheese with Cauliflower, Spinach, and Chickpeas

Becky Rosenthal has a confession to make. Without shame she romanticizes her grandmother's era. Perhaps she's a victim of Golden Age thinking, but she believes her grandma could teach us a few things about hosting a party, warming up a room, welcoming strangers, cooking for them and striking up a conversation. We could all benefit from sitting down around a great meal and simply enjoying our families and friends more often. Enter Vintage Mixer. She originally started Vintage Mixer to share ... More

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