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Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce

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15-Minute Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring.

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.
Pasta with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce

A light meatless pasta dish the whole family will enjoy using pantry staples like pasta and marinara. You can use any small pasta shape you wish or swap the pasta for farro. An easy vegetarian dinner idea using just 4 ingredients plus salt and pepper.


Asparagus is in season, and I’m probably the only one in my house who truly loves it, so to get everyone else on board requires some work (or sneaking into their food). Chopping it real small and combining it with cute little pasta shells which hug each bite of asparagus works perfect in my house!

Having a toddler and a teenager in the house, I try to come up with quick and healthy, well-balanced meals everyone will enjoy because making separate dishes is not an option in my house. I always have marinara sauce on hand to use throughout the week. I make large batches of it and freeze the rest in portions in zip-lock bags. You can make a double batch of this sauce to use for other recipes throughout the week or freeze it for a later time. This recipe requires having cooked marinara sauce on hand, jarred or homemade marinara.

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.

More Easy Pasta Recipes:

Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce

4.88 from 8 votes
A light Spring pasta dish the whole family will enjoy; baby shells are tossed with chopped asparagus and a light marinara sauce. Quick and easy, perfect for vegetarians or meatless Fridays.
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce is a quick and easy 4-ingredient pasta dish, perfect for Spring. Ready in under 15 minutes and under ten dollars to make.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Serving Size: 1 1/4 cups


  • 8 ouncea baby pasta shells, or small gluten free pasta
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, tough ends removed
  • 1 1/2 cups quick marinara sauce, or jarred
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste


  • Boil about 4 inches of water in a large pot, when boiling add asparagus and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender crisp.
  • Drain and chop into small bite sized pieces.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (you can use the same pot from the asparagus not to dirty too many dishes). Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.
  • While pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan heat 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce.
  • Drain pasta and RESERVE a cup of the pasta water.
  • Return pasta back to the pot and toss with marinara, asparagus, grated cheese, salt and pepper and a 1/4 cup of the pasta water or as needed to loosen the sauce.
  • Divide between four bowls and top with fresh pepper and more grated cheese if desired.

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Serving: 1 1/4 cups, Calories: 283 kcal, Carbohydrates: 52 g, Protein: 11 g, Fat: 3.5 g, Fiber: 4 g


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86 comments on “Baby Pasta Shells with Asparagus and Marinara Sauce”

  1. This is delicious and so easy. I used a jarred sauce adding in some reduced fat cream cheese for a creamy sauce. After cooking the pasta, I sautéed shrimp along with the trimmed asparagus adding it all together for a one pot dish.

  2. This sounds SO quick, easy, & super delisious.  For us, I’ll use whole wheat pasta, & we here all love Baby  Asparagus.  One concern I have is: what would the approx. sodium content be per serving?  We don’t have health issues, but try to avoid excess sodium in our diets to avoid possible future problems, & not to get our kiddoes’ palates used to liking a lot of salt.  Pecorino Romano Cheese, delicious as it is, contains a lot of sodium.  Can you suggest another tasty cheese, but which contains less sodium?  I’d like to serve this as a side to my Greek Chicken.  Thank you. 💐

  3. Really really like this recipe. After going to 3 grocery stores there were no containers of baby shells to be found. I substituted orecchiette and it was delicious. This could be a complete meal or as a side with a protein. It will definitely be a regular on our dinner list. Thank you!!!

  4. So delicious and easy to make! I substituted about 2 ounces of goat cheese in place of the Parmesan because one of my family members cannot eat cow diary and oh my, that changed the sauce completely!!

  5. I was a little skeptical about asparagus in a dish with marinara, but OH, MY GOSH!, it was excellent and easy. I made it last night and took left overs today for lunch. I’m putting this into regular rotation in the menu.

  6. This was great! I prefer a little more protein in my dishes, but the asparagus/marinara combo was wonderful. 

  7. Pingback: Skinnytaste Dinner Plan (Week 67) | Skinnytaste

  8. Avatar photo
    ellyne denker

    Gina, are the recipes not print friendly anymore? I was using them for grocery list and it was so convenient to print. Now the green button is gone.

  9. I made only the sauce. It was yummy. I used my veggetti on zucchini instead of pasta. It was awesome!

  10. Avatar photo
    Krysta Peterson

    Is the 282 calories listed under the recipe including the marinara sauce and then the 51 calories is just the marinara if you were using it for something else? Thanks!

  11. This looks really good, though there isn't really any protein. Maybe I'll add some chicken. Oh, and I don't eat gluten and Tinkyada makes a DELICIOUS shell pasta. Doesn't taste any different from regular!

  12. Love this recipe. So quick and easy. I just throw the asparagus in the last few minutes of the pasta cooking, and it's easy clean up. Thanks Gina!

  13. This is one of our favorite simple yet super delicious..making this tomorrow night…but tonight is grilled chicken with some roasted cilantro corn

  14. Avatar photo
    The Cox Family

    Piccolini makes baby shells in a high fiber pasta. The calorie difference is minimal though right?

  15. next time try and roast the asparagus. sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a little olive oil and roast at 400 for about 15 min. then chop

  16. This sounds awsome. I am going to try making it this weekend. Hope I can get my husband to try it as he does not like asparagus. I wonder what it would taste like to substitute broccoli for the asparagus.

  17. Hi Gina, I was just wondering where you can get the Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes. I didn't see them at Dierbergs today. I used Hunts and the sauce turned out very good. I would love to try the type you used though. So glad that I have found your website.. its nice to have Weight Watcher friendly meals that taste good 🙂

  18. Just made this recipe tonight for dinner, It was delicious!

    I'm so happy to add this recipe to my collection. Even my 20 year old (picky as could be) sister ate her whole serving and raved about it. I was completley shocked and so happy to have pleased her! Believe me, its hard to!

    Thanks for the great recipes, keep up the awesome work 🙂

  19. Avatar photo

    I found a brand of high fiber mini pasta and my fred meyers!! It is barilla. I loved this meal, btw, and my BF, who likes to joke that its not dinner without meat in it, liked it and said so! Yummmmmmmmmm.

  20. Avatar photo

    I am featuring this on my blog ( tomorrow . . . with the addition of shrimp. Yum!

  21. Just wanted to say that I am eating leftovers of this dish right now for lunch. I left it cold because its a hot day here and wow! It makes a great cold pasta salad type of lunch too!

  22. Made this last night, the hub and the 8 yr old now-picky-eater loved it and opted that instead of fideo for lunch today!! YAY!! It is so light and filling. It reminds me of a lean cusine meal (thats a compliment, I can make my own!)

  23. Avatar photo

    So good! I wilted some spinach into my marinara (jarred I'm ashamed to admit) and added even another veggie!!!

  24. I got this recipe in my inbox this morning. Had 2 grocery sacks full of asparagus in my frig from the past few days. I have homemade canned marinara sauce from last summer. I made this for lunch and it was loved by all! Such a good "light" lunch option! And takes no time at all! I think next time I might throw some baby portabello mushrooms in as well! Thanks so much!

  25. I've made several dishes from Gina and all turn out great. This one was no exception; absolutely delicious! Very easy to make and comes together at the end nicely.

  26. possibly a stupid question…but for your marinara sauce, do you remove the bay leaf and blend it all together?? or is it pretty much ok to use straight out of the pot??

  27. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    You could but you would have to re-adjust the points. It may be fine as is, the gluten free pasta is pretty filling.

  28. Since gluten free pasta doesn't expand as much as regular pasta, would you suggest increasing the amount specified in this recipe?

  29. Very good! I had two pieces of peppered bacon in the fridge so I crumbled them right into the dish. A tasty surprise here and there.

  30. Just had this for dinner tonight! Really easy to make and tasted great! We just subbed in some whole wheat noodles.

  31. Avatar photo
    Fort Lauderdale catering

    It may be true that all of us appreciate this kind of food preparation, but this is good for those who want to try out new things and explore what the food world has to offer.

  32. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    Thanks for leaving your reviews! I'll have to shop on amazon for whole wheat pasta shapes, thanks for the tip!

    Sauce is not zero points, there's carbs and calories in tomatoes. Pasta is about 5 points plus per cup depending on the brand and shape.

    Sorry, no lemon butter recipes.

    Melissa, absolutely! That would be the smart thing to do!!

  33. I Just made this is and it's FAB! I used bow-ties because my husband has a thing about shells… (don't ask…:))). It tastes delicious, it's easy and spring-y — even though it snowed here in upstate NY this morning.

  34. I recently found a big variety of whole wheat pasta at Amazon. Amazing – I would have never thought about looking there!

  35. I love different pasta shapes! What a great idea to add asparagus. I love that stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  36. I LOVE asparagus! Is there any reason I couldn't just throw it in the pasta water for the last 3 minutes?

  37. Hi Gina – Looks great, it is amazing that you can take simple ingredients and turn it into something wonderful and delicious!

    Quick question – looking at your marinara sauce, I can't understand why it wouldn't be zero pts? If you distribute the min oil used per serving, wouldn't it be zero pts?

    thanks 🙂

  38. This recipe looks delicious Gina. We had the chicken & mushrooms in the white wine garlic sauce. Everyone wanted seconds. It was terrific. Trying to lose weight is hard enough, but if it was boring it would be difficult. Thanks for letting us change it up quite a bit.

  39. Gina- me and my husband were wondering if you have dome any pasta dishes with a lower fat lemon-butter sauce?

  40. The recipe was awesome…although i used spaghetti because i didnt have any shells, next time i will use the shells! I love your homemade marinara also 🙂 I added a touch of crushed red pepper for a little kick

  41. This looks fabulous!! I was looking for another recipe or two to add to this week's menu and asparagus are on sale at Whole Foods… so guess we'll be having this!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  42. Hehe, I remember when I had to sneak food into my dishes so it got eaten. I love this recipe. That past looks just delicious!

  43. this sounds awesome! i'd ditch the cheese though, since i'm lactose intolerant 🙂 if only i could cook..

  44. Now this is going to get made THIS week! I just wish I had looked before I went shopping. 🙂 I'll just send hubby for the asparagus…

  45. Avatar photo
    Gina @ Skinnytaste

    klalaw – I hope they read this and start adding more variety to their pasta shapes! I love unusual shapes.

    symphony – aww, that means a lot to me, that of course is what I strive for!

    The marinara makes about 3 cups, just freeze what you don't use. This recipe is easy to make for one. Whatever asparagus you don't use, you can use in another recipe or throw in a salad.

    Christina – The pasta I used was not brown rice, but I love the Tinkaya brown rice elbows if gluten free. The pasta used in this recipe was imported from Italy, the brand was Anna.

    Julia, finally you'll make one of my dishes!

  46. Avatar photo
    Cat Chat With Caren And Cody

    this sounds delicious and I would LOVE to make it tonight but I don't think my husband would eat it. I have a turkey breast that hasn't thawed and have no clue what to make tonight. This would be marvelous for me (but I would use spaghetti, I don't have shells in the house)….and I would have to use feta…it sounds really good!

  47. I agree about the whole wheat pasta. I'm in a rural area and long for the days I can take a road trip to a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods, to gawk at all the variety of foods we never have close to home.

    I have a teenager and two lil ones at home. And what I cook for dinner everyone eats; I'm not a short-order cook.

  48. how much does that recipe for marinara make? i am single and not sure how much it would make. i usually half your recipe. glad i can freeze some of this!

  49. I can not say enough how much I love your recipes! I made 4 of them this weekend and all of them were loved by my husband and 15 month old son. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is! I am on WW but my husband is not. Finding recipes that are healthy for all of us but delicious enough not to taste like "diet" food is a challenge. I just finished eating carrots and your skinny ranch dip. You make me want to be in the kitchen again. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart (and tummy!). 🙂

  50. Looks yummy. I just love how healthy and delicious can come in one plate. Thanks for the share!

  51. Looks yummy! I LOVE asparagus, and am always looking for new ways to cook it. I echo your thoughts, though, regarding the lack of variety in high fiber/whole wheat pastas.

  52. This looks delish, but I had to second your vote of confidence in Tuttorosso! It is THE BEST canned crushed tomato, sauce, puree, etc I've ever had. As close to homemade as you can get.