Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are an easy Italian dish of pasta, creamy ricotta, and spinach baked together with a delicious marinara sauce . This family friendly dinner is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies to picky little eaters.
You’d be hard pressed to find a pasta we don’t like. That’s especially true of baked pastas like our chicken alfredo lasagna roll ups or the classic lasagna rolls with red sauce (we even have recipes for miniature versions that make awesome appetizers). Any pasta dish where the cheese gets gooey and the sauce starts to caramelize some it high on our list.
This tasty recipe for spinach and ricotta stuffed shells creates mouth watering baked stuffed pasta shells that your whole family will love. Even picky kids won’t mind that you snuck in a little spinach when it comes with sauce and cheese!
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Table of contents
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need for these delicious stuffed shells:
- Jumbo pasta shells – You should cook a few extra shells just in case some break while cooking or stuffing the shells.
- Baby spinach – We use fresh bagged spinach instead of frozen or canned.
- Cheeses – You’ll need whole milk ricotta, shredded mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese.
- Seasonings – For the right flavor, you’ll need Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
- Egg – This helps hold the filling together.
- Marinara sauce – You can use your favorite recipe or jar.
Follow these instructions for best results.
Step 1 – Prep the pasta. Before getting started, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
As the oven heats, cook the jumbo shells according to the instructions on the back of the box.
Once cooked, drain the pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let the pasta sit in the strainer to cool while you ready the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2 – Prepare the spinach. As the pasta cools, place the baby spinach in a microwave safe bowl with 3 tablespoons of water. Wet a paper towel and place the wet paper towel on top of the spinach. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes or until fully cooked.
Carefully, pour the cooked spinach into a strainer and let the water drain out until it has cooled completely. Once it is cooled, give it a few good squeezes to get as much excess water out as possible. This will help prevent the cheese filling from getting soupy.
Finally, finely chop the spinach up and set aside.
Step 3 – Make the stuffing. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 ounces of shredded mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cooked spinach,and egg.
Stir together until the ingredients are well mixed.
Step 4 – Stuff the shells. Fill each of the shells with approximately 2 tablespoons of filling.
Step 5 – Assemble. Next, pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch casserole dish. When the layer of sauce is down, add the stuffed shells to the dish and then top with remaining sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the remaining 4 ounces of mozzarella.
Step 6 – Bake. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until warmed through. Serve immediately fresh from the oven.
How to Make Them Ahead of Time
Refrigerator (1-2 Days Ahead) – If you want to make the recipe 1-2 days ahead of time, follow the recipe instructions (steps 2 – 7) to make the filling and stuff the shells. Do not add sauce. Then follow the steps below:
- Place the assembled shells in an airtight container or cover them with plastic wrap. You can refrigerate them for up to 2 days.
- When you’re ready to enjoy the stuffed shells, simply preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and follow recipe instructions 7-12. We recommend extending the cooking time by 10 minutes to allow for the shells to heat all the way through.
Freezer (2-3 months Ahead) – To freeze uncooked stuffed shells, follow the recipe instructions (steps 2 – 7) for making the filling and stuffing the shells. Do not add sauce. Then follow the steps below:
- Place the uncooked stuffed shells on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, making sure they are not touching each other.
- Put the baking sheet in the freezer and let the shells freeze until firm, which usually takes a few hours.
- Once the shells are frozen, transfer them into a freezer-safe container or resealable plastic bag. Label the container or bag with the date and contents for easy identification.
- Return the shells to the freezer and store them for up to 3 months.
- When you’re ready to enjoy the stuffed shells, simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and follow recipe instructions 7-12. We recommend extending the cooking time by 10 minutes to allow for the shells to heat all the way through.
How to Store Leftover Stuffed Shells
If you have leftover stuffed shells knowing how to properly store them is essential to maintain their flavor and freshness. Here are the instructions for storing stuffed shells in both the freezer and the refrigerator:
Storing in the Freezer:
- Allow the stuffed shells to cool completely before storing them in the freezer. This will help prevent condensation and freezer burn.
- Individually wrap each stuffed shell tightly with plastic wrap. Wrapping them individually will make it easier to thaw and reheat only the desired amount later on.
- Place the wrapped stuffed shells in an airtight container or freezer-safe plastic bag. Make sure to remove any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
- Label the container or bag with the date and contents for easy identification.
- Put the container or bag in the freezer and store for up to 3 months.
Thawing and Reheating from the Freezer:
- When you’re ready to enjoy the stuffed shells, remove the desired amount from the freezer.
- Place the frozen shells in the refrigerator and let them thaw overnight.
- Once thawed, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Transfer the shells to a baking dish and cover them with your preferred sauce and cheese.
- Bake the stuffed shells for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Storing in the Refrigerator:
- If you plan to consume the stuffed shells within the next 24 hours, you can store them in the refrigerator.
- Place the leftover stuffed shells in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with plastic wrap.
- Label the container or wrap with the date to keep track of freshness.
- Store the stuffed shells in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reheating from the Refrigerator:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Transfer the refrigerated stuffed shells to a baking dish.
- Cover the shells with sauce and cheese to prevent them from drying out during reheating.
- Bake the stuffed shells for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted and golden.
What to Serve with Stuffed Shells
Stuffed shells make for a delicious and satisfying meal on their own, but if you’re looking to complement them with some tasty sides, here are a couple of ideas:
- Texas Toast Garlic Bread: The buttery and garlicky flavors of Texas Toast Garlic Bread pair exceptionally well with stuffed shells. You can serve it as a side dish or use it to mop up any extra sauce on your plate.
- Cheese Twists: Cheese twists are a delightful and cheesy addition to your stuffed shells meal. These crunchy and savory treats complement the flavors of the dish perfectly.
- Mixed Green Salad: A refreshing salad can provide a contrasting element to the richness of stuffed shells. Consider serving a crisp green salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing. You can use a mix of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, and your choice of other vegetables.
- Panzanella Salad: This classic Italian salad pairs crisp, buttery bread cubes with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and Parmesan cheese for a delicious side dish.
- Italian Green Beans: Add a veggie to your meal with these perfectly cooked green beans that are tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use frozen spinach if you want to. To use frozen, thaw it completely and then squeeze out as much water as possible. You want to make sure they are pretty dry to avoid making the stuffing too loose.
It is generally better to freeze stuffed shells before they are cooked. Freezing the shells before baking helps to preserve their texture and prevent them from becoming mushy or overcooked when reheated. By freezing the uncooked stuffed shells, you can ensure that they retain their integrity and maintain a pleasant texture after being thawed and baked.
When baking stuffed shells, the recommended temperature is 375°F (190°C). This temperature allows the shells to cook evenly and ensures that the filling heats through and the cheese melts and becomes bubbly on top. Keep in mind that baking times may vary slightly depending on the specific recipe and the size of the shells, so it’s always a good idea to check for doneness by observing the appearance and texture of the dish. Enjoy your perfectly baked stuffed shells!
Looking for More Easy Pasta Recipes?
- Pizza Casserole
- Chicken Florentine Pasta
- Shrimp Alfredo Pasta
- Slow Cooker Sausage and Ravioli
- Pasta Carbonara
- Creamy Sausage Pasta with Butternut Squash
- Spinach Baked Ziti
- More Pasta Recipes…
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 16 Jumbo pasta shells, Cook a couple of extra shells to allow for a few breaking while the pasta cooks.
- 8 ounces Baby spinach
- 12 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta
- 5 ounces Shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Black pepper
- 1 large Egg
- 24 ounces Marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook jumbo shells according to the instructions on the back of the box. Once cooked drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Let the pasta sit in strainer to cool while you ready the rest of the ingredients.
- Place the baby spinach in a microwave safe bowl with 3 tablespoons of water. Wet a paper towel and place the wet paper towel on top of the spinach. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, until fully cooked.
- Pour the cooked spinach into a strainer and let the water drain out until it cool completely. Then give it a few good squeezes to get as much excess water out as possible.
- Finely chop the spinach up and set aside.
- In a large bowl combine the ricotta, 2 ounces of shredded mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cooked spinach,and egg. Stir together until well mixed.
- Fill shells with approximately 2 tablespoons of filling each.
- Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
- Add stuffed shells to the dish and then top with remaining sauce.
- Sprinkle with remaining 3 ounces of mozzarella on top. Feel free to add more if you like!
- Bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until warmed through.
- Serve immediately.