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Stuffed Shells Filled With Spinach and Ricotta Recipe

Spinach stuffed shells with ricotta cheese are one of the best Italian recipes you will ever make. Easy, delicious, with an authentic Italian flavor.

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Table of Contents

These spinach stuffed shells with ricotta cheese are one of the best Italian recipes you will ever make. They are easy, delicious, and have a true, authentic Italian flavor.

All that delicious cheese filling is hard to resist! And the addition of fresh spinach gives the shells a healthy twist. These ricotta stuffed shells are also completely vegetarian making them a dinner that anyone can enjoy! It really doesn’t get any better than spinach ricotta stuffed shells.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Italian Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe

Spinach stuffed shells have been a classic Italian meal for decades. Not only are the pasta shells served almost weekly in many Italian homes, but it is a perfect dish to make on a holiday. You can easily double or triple this recipe to make a nice large tray of stuffed pasta shells. It is also the perfect make-ahead meal that freezes really well. Yes, this stuffed shells recipe really has it all!

Our delicious recipe also has a few steps that make it even easier than other stuffed shell recipes you may find. For one, we used jarred tomato sauce which is just as tasty as homemade but a whole lot easier since you can just buy it and go. We also use baby spinach which is nice and small so you don’t have to chop or cut anything at all!

Give this recipe a try and you are going to immediately see how easy it is. We know it will become one of your favorite meals and probably part of your weekly menu, too. You will be cooking like an Italian grandma in no time!

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Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Ingredients for Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Here is a quick look at the ingredients you will need to make this ricotta stuffed shells recipe. The exact quantities are listed in the recipe below but this will give you a good idea of what you will need to make this perfect recipe.

  • Jumbo Pasta Shells – Make sure to get jumbo pasta shells and not small shells. Small shells are better for dishes like mac and cheese but they are not big enough to stuff with tasty ricotta filling.
  • Olive Oil – Olive oil is the best for sauteing garlic and spinach.
  • Garlic – Three cloves of garlic will give you about 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.
  • Fresh baby spinach – Fresh spinach is so easy to use. Baby spinach leaves wilt quickly and tastes delicious.
  • Whole milk ricotta cheese – Whole milk ricotta has the creamiest texture and the most delicious flavor.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

  • Shredded mozzarella cheese – Whole milk mozzarella cheese is also best for the spinach ricotta filling.
  • Grated parmesan cheese – Freshly grated parmesan is the best to use. Do not use that powdered cheese you find in the aisles of the grocery store. You need fresh, real cheese!
  • Egg – One large egg will help bind the filling together as the shells bake.
  • Fresh basil – Freshly chopped basil adds and intense, bold taste that is authentic Italian.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce – Use your favorite tomato sauce. Any brand will work or you can also use homemade marinara sauce.

Photo credit: Istockphoto.com

Variations

While this recipe for spinach stuffed shells is truly perfect, here are a few ingredient substitutions and variations you may want to try.

  • Replace the fresh spinach with frozen spinach. Make sure the frozen spinach is thawed and squeezed to remove all of the liquid. You don’t want the extra liquid to make your ricotta mixture runny or end up with a watery sauce.
  • Use skim milk ricotta for a lighter meal. Strain the skim milk ricotta through cheesecloth to remove any excess water and also to make the low fat cheese a little bit thicker.
  • Use a meat sauce in place of the plain marinara sauce to make the ricotta stuffed shells a more hearty meal.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the ricotta mixture to make the stuffed shells a little more spicy.

Photo credit: istockphoto.com
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

How to Make Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Take a quick look at how to put this recipe together. The recipe card below has even more details for you, too!

  1. Prepare: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil the jumbo pasta shells according to the package directions until they are al dente. Drain the cooked pasta shells, toss them with a little butter or oil, then set them aside while you make the rest of the recipe.
  2. Cook the spinach: Saute the garlic and oil in a large skillet. Stir in the spinach. The spinach should be wilted but still bright green. Let the mix cool.
  3. Make the filling: Stir the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, egg, pepper and salt together in a large bowl. Add in the cooked spinach and stir well.
  4. Prep the pan: Spread about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.
  5. Fill the shells: Scoop about 1/4 cup of the ricotta filling into each cooked shell. The shells should be bursting with the cheese mixture. Place the cheese stuffed shells in the baking dish. Then, pour the remaining sauce over the shells in the pan.
  6. Bake: Cover the baking dish with foil then bake the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and serve while warm!Photo credit: Istockphoto.com

How to Store Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Once your shells have baked and cooled, you can wrap the tray in plastic wrap or move the spinach ricotta stuffed shells into an airtight container. Store the shells in the fridge for up to one week. You can reheat the jumbo shells in the microwave or in the oven until hot. This makes for a perfect, flavorful dinner that you can enjoy anytime!

You can also freeze ricotta stuffed shells, spinach included. Assemble the giant shells as directed in the recipe but do not bake. Instead, wrap the entire tray of shells in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge for up to three months. Pasta dishes freeze and thaw well! Plus, having an absolutely delicious, pre-made meal in your freezer is the best. When you are ready to eat, just pop the tray into the oven and bake as directed!

Photo credit: Istockphoto.com
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Amazing Recipe for Shells With Spinach

Give this delicious recipe for stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and spinach a try and you will be obsessed. It is easy to make and will give you a true, Italian dish. If you love this dish, be sure to try our other fantastic recipes. Our classic stuffed shells is to die for and our gluten free pizza is pretty incredible, too!

Spinach stuffed shells Recipe Feature Image - 1390x600

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

These spinach stuffed shells with ricotta cheese are one of the best Italian recipes you will ever make. They are easy, delicious, and have a true, authentic Italian flavor.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Pasta, Primo
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 490 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 16 jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 12 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup marinara sauce

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain the cooked shells and set aside.
  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute for one minute to brown. Add the baby spinach to the skillet and stir to wilt the greens, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the pan and let the spinach cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooled spinach, ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, egg, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Stir together well.
  • Spread about 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking dish.
  • Scoop the ricotta spinach filling into each shell, stuffing it as much as possible without breaking the noodles. Put the shells directly into the pan after you stuff them.
  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells in the pan then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake the shells in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Serve warm!
Keyword Pasta, Spinach, Stuffed Shells

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the food images displayed on this website are for illustrative purposes only. They do not represent the actual dishes or presentations you might achieve when following our recipes. While we strive to inspire your culinary journey, the appearance of your dishes may vary.

Frequent Asked Questions

Shells are delicious with a freshly chopped salad, homemade garlic bread or as main course after some Italian soup. Serve some fresh calamari or mozzarella sticks as an appetizer before the meal to make it even more filling.

Most jumbo shells will take about 9-10 minutes to boil. Always test a noodle, giving it a bite, before draining the whole pot. Every brand will be a little different so be sure to check your pasta box for exact times.

While a ricotta stuffed shells recipe and manicotti seem pretty similar, they are a little bit different. Manicotti noodles are long and tube-shaped. Jumbo shells are shaped more like a boat and the noodle is also much thicker. However, both noodles are cooked to al dente, stuffed with a cheese mixture, and baked! So the similarities are apparent.

To make stuffed shells, you will need large pasta shells, olive oil, garlic, baby spinach, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, basil, salt, pepper, and marinara sauce. Take a look at our wonderful recipe for the exact quantities and directions.

Baby spinach is best for stuffing shells as you do not need to chop up big spinach leaves. Plus, baby spinach cooks quite quickly and doesn’t contain too much water. It adds the perfect flavor and tender vegetable to your pasta shell recipe!

Conchiglioni and stuffed shells are the same! If you are in Italy, you would call this dish conchigloni. In the United States, they are typically called jumbo shells.

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