What’s not to love about Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells?! It’s a classic pasta dish that never fails.
Loaded with ricotta, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, marinara sauce, and lots of love!
This pasta dish is a total crowd-pleaser. I love making these when I’m craving lasagna but don’t want to hassle with making an entire pan of lasagna. Ya feel me?!
Colder months means cozying up with all of the comfort food and this meal fits the bill. Grab your jumbo shells and let’s get to it!
Table of contents
- Jumbo Shells: Undercooking the shells 1-2 minutes or just until al dente is perfect because they will continue to cook in the oven. Tip: always cook a few extra shells just in case some tear or break when cooking.
- Ricotta cheese: I love using a whole milk ricotta. It’s creamy and just so perfect.
- Garlic: freshly minced
- Marinara sauce: any jarred marinara or tomato sauce works perfectly here. We love Rao’s.
- Shredded mozzarella: Buy fresh, low-moisture mozzarella for best results
- Parmesan cheese: Same goes for the Parmesan, buy a block and shred/grate yourself for best results.
- Baby spinach: This recipe hasn’t been tested with frozen spinach so I can’t advise on how that would work. I’d imagine frozen would work well though too!
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, onion powder, fresh basil
- Optional: To make this a heartier meal, we love adding in ground Italian Sausage. As you can see from the photos, we love adding the Italian sausage in ours!
Step by Step Directions
- Boil jumbo shells: cook al dente according to package directions (I usually cook the entire 12 oz. box just in case some break when cooking)
- Cook spinach in olive oil until it cooks down and turns bright green.
- Make the filling: Mix together the cheeses, egg, basil and seasonings.
- Assemble the shells: Spread a layer of marinara down in the casserole dish. Stuff each shell with cheese mixture.
- Cover and bake!
Tips and Variations
This recipe is really flexible and you and customize it based on your preferences.
- If wanting to add Italian sausage, cook it separately and layer it down in the shell first, then add the cheese mixture.
- Instead of spinach, you can use kale or arugula.
- Change up the cheese if you prefer. Asiago, Fontina, Cottage cheese are all good options. I still recommend using ricotta as the base and wouldn’t skip out on that.
- Instead of red sauce, use a different sauce such as Alfredo. So YUM!
- Add more veggies when sautéing the spinach: broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.
I haven’t tested this recipe out with a vegan version. You could try using a vegan tofu ricotta and follow the instructions the same way, leaving out the egg and other cheeses and using your favorite vegan cheese instead.
Yes! Stuff shells and cover tightly. Freeze for up to 3 months. Once ready to bake, bake for an additional 30 minutes since frozen.
Properly stored they will last 3-4 days.
Yes, make them all the way up to the point of baking them up to 8 hours before you are ready to bake the shells. If you refrigerated it overnight and baked the next day, it should be fine but I haven’t personally tested. Cover with foil and place in fridge until ready to bake, adjusting bake time as needed since pasta has been chilled.
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Cheesy Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells
- 20-25 jumbo pasta shells*
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 jar (24 oz.) or 1 1/4 cup marinara sauce
- 16 oz. Italian Sausage (spicy/hot) optional
- 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. fresh basil
- 4 cups chopped fresh baby spinach (pat dry with paper towels)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil water for jumbo shells and cook shells al dente (about 8-9 minutes), drain and set aside on parchment paper to cool. (If making with Italian Sausage, cook the sausage now and set aside in a bowl).
- Heat olive oil in pan for 30 seconds on medium heat and then add in garlic, stir for 30 more seconds. Then add in dry, chopped spinach, stir and cook for 2 minutes or until leaves wilt and turn bright green. Remove from heat and let cool.
- In a large bowl mix together the ricotta, spinach mixture, egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, garlic powder and salt and pepper until combined. Line 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom on a 9×13 inch oven safe baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a heaping Tbsp. of the spinach/ricotta mixture and place in dish. *If using Italian sausage, put ground sausage in first, then cheese mixture on top.
- Cover the shells with the leftover red sauce and bake, covered with foil, for 25 minutes.
- Remove the foil, top with additional mozzarella cheese and then cook for another 5-10 minutes. Serve warm with Parmesan sprinkled on top!
- *Jumbo Shells: always boil off a few extra shells just in case some shells tear in the cooking process. The 12 oz. box is plenty. There are usually a couple of broken ones in the box so boil extra!
- You can sub ground turkey for the Italian sausage is desired, or leave out the meat completely.
- *Be sure dry your spinach because you don’t want any water from the spinach leaves to mix with the hot oil in your pan when you begin the wilting step!
Hi, I’m Tawnie!
Welcome to my tiny “korner” on the Internet! I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who loves cookies as much as kale. (OK, maybe I like cookies a little bit more but shh, don’t tell anyone). I am so glad you’re here! Follow along for hassle free, realistic and approachable recipes.More about Tawnie