Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta | Fork Knife Swoon

Growing up, I was one of those bizarre children who actually liked eating vegetables. For a long time, spinach was my very favorite, and I would eat big bowls of it simply steamed, or sometimes with a little sprinkling of cheese. I loved those leafy greens. Before you envy my parents having a child content to munch on spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, tomatoes, or other fresh produce procured in our family vegetable garden, they also lived through my angst-filled adolescent years, and I’m sure they’ll remind you that it all evens out in the end.

Today we still eat a lot of spinach, and I like incorporating it into recipes for a healthy boost. In this dish, we combine quick sauteed spinach with creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, all tucked in to extra-large pasta shells and baked to bubbly goodness. The result is a healthy and hearty baked pasta dish that makes for a crowd-pleasing vegetarian meal.


4.9 from 17 reviews
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe by:
Yield: 4 Servings
Ingredients
  • 16 jumbo pasta shells (Cook a couple of extra shells to allow for a few breaking while the pasta cooks.)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves, roughly-chopped
  • 12 oz skim-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded skim-milk mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups marinara sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about a minute or two. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. The spinach should be reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a shallow 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture, and place in the baking dish.
  4. Cover with the remaining sauce and bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to brown and the sauce begins the bubble, another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with a dusting of Parmesan.
 

 

 

 

76 Comments

  • Samantha says:

    What is the calorie break down for this?

  • Elena says:

    This recipe is absolutely delicious. I made it ahead of time and put it in the freezer. All I had to do was throw it in the oven! I love the combination of flavors of the spinach and cheese. I made this for my boyfriend and he loved it. Thanks for the great recipe :)

  • Jeanne says:

    Does this freeze well? I’m expecting international guests and I’m trying to prepare several meals ahead so I won’t have to be in the kitchen most of the time while they are here.

    • Laura says:

      Hi, Jeanne! They do! I’ve had a couple of readers also suggest freezing the pre-made shells individually or in small batches for more flexibility on serving size.

  • Amber says:

    These were delicious! My whole family enjoyed them, including my 3 year old. Thank you!

  • Amber says:

    These were delicious! Even my 3 year old loved them! Thank you!

  • Angela says:

    Your presentation photo is beautiful, but it doesn’t look as though there is any sauce on top of the shells. I’m making this for a birthday celebration, and I’d like my dish to look as lovely as yours, so should I top the shells with sauce, or not? Also, I love the idea of adding spinach into the cheese mixture. I’m very anxious to make this dish. Of course, I’ll serve it with a large tossed Italian-style salad and garlic bread. I’m sure our guests will truly enjoy this meal.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Angela! It’s important to have at least a light coating of sauce on top of the shells… This keeps the pasta from drying out or burning while they cook. You’re right, there isn’t much on top of the shells in the photo – I wanted the filling to show through – but normally I would use the full amount in the recipe. If you want more of that “look,” try using a thinner pasta sauce rather than a chunky one. Hope that helps, and that you and your guests love the recipe!

  • Judith Markham says:

    Laura I want to use this for my eating light group. Do you have the nutritional value and calories for this dish? How could I make it light?

    • Laura says:

      Hi Judith! I am working on adding nutritional info to all FKS recipes, but I’m not quite there yet. Soon! In the meantime, try using whole wheat pasta shells (if you can find them), and light/skim ricotta and mozzarella.

  • Adina says:

    My daughter won’t eat eggs. Do you think I can just increase the ricotta and add a little water? Or should I use egg replacer?

    • Laura says:

      Hi Adina,

      Is it that she doesn’t like eggs? Or can’t/is allergic to eggs?

      If she just doesn’t like eggs, I promise you she will never notice. The egg is not there for flavor, but rather as a binder, to keep the cheese together, and you really don’t taste it at all.

      If she is allergic, simply omit the egg and continue with the rest of the recipe – no water needed.

      Hope that helps!

  • Katie says:

    Thank you Laura for the reciepe. I made it for dinner today and it came out amazing. My boyfriend and friends loved it.

  • Sounds wonderful!!! But what do you serve with it?? Salad?? If so what kind??

    • Laura says:

      Hi Dorothy! I would definitely serve this with a salad… The stuffed shells are almost a complete meal themselves, but a light salad would be a nice side. Lately I’ve been loving big spinach salads with fresh cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, kalamata olives, cucumber, avocado, pine nuts (or almonds) and a liberal amount of goat cheese (or feta), which has a really fresh, summery/Mediterranean vibe that would be really good with the shells. Honestly though, I think any green salad would be great with this. Let me know what you end up making, and enjoy your dinner party!!

  • steph says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe, it’s one of our favorites now. My boyfriend loves pasta and I usually avoid it, but I actually really like this one and of course so does he. :) Thanks again!

  • Chris says:

    Will attempt my first ravioli/pierogi with homemade pasta tonight and was looking for a spinach ricotta filling and I will try this one. The shells look extremely tempting, but I really must try my own pasta first!

    • Chris says:

      I don’t understand the following: “The spinach should be reduced by half.” The amount? Wy waste 2 cups of spinach? Not sure what to do…

      • Laura says:

        No, no! Don’t throw away the spinach! What that means is that the spinach will cook down considerably, reducing the overall volume of spinach by about half (as much of the natural water in the spinach cooks away.) You’ll end up using the full amount you start with… Hope that helps!

      • Emily says:

        It means that after you cook the spinach, the amount will be reduced by a half.

      • Angela says:

        She just means that you should wait to remove the spinach from the heat until the size of the original amount of spinach is half the size of when you started cooking it- that’s when you know it’s done. It’s size is reduced by half. :)

  • Stevi says:

    All I can say is ‘YUM!” I found this recipe on Pinterest and my husband and I absolutely loved it! We made it two weeks in a row! Really flavourful and filling, yet still light. Definitely a new favorite so thank you!

  • Kelly says:

    A friend made this for me after I had my third baby, it was SO delicious that it’s now my go-to when bringing people food or cooking for others! Making it today for my bookclub! This recipe is a total home run!

    • Mark Janov says:

      This was fantastic. Thank you I looked like I have been cooking for years. The wife loved it and I now have lunch tomorrow besides a great dinner tonight . The hardest part was buying the food . Then the anticipation of this bothered me a little, I hate to wait as I am a fast food guy. So glad I made this.
      Great recipe … Thanks

  • Heaven says:

    Hello, this sounds like a lovely recipe! I dont have much cooking experience because I’m still young, only sixteen and I’m trying to find new and cheap recipes. I’m definitely going to try this one, but what would you recommend on the side? Green beans, sala, carrots?

  • Deborah says:

    I made these for a tough crowd on New Year’s Eve this past year for a progressive dinner, the main course being at our home. (Three of my guests were siblings whose father was a professional chef and they’re very opinionated where cuisine is concerned.) I got RAVE reviews on these shells! I had wanted a recipe that would help use the large tub of spinach I frequently buy at Sam’s Club and this recipe was just the ticket. I didn’t have fresh basil in the house so I used dried but otherwise, pretty much followed the recipe as written. It was great to be able to make these up the evening before and we set our oven to come on while we were having appetizers at House #1 on our dinner tour. I am going out of state to care for my elderly parents soon and will be taking the ingredients to WOW my Italian mama and father when I make them dinner. These freeze really, really well so the leftovers will go into their freezer for their caregiver to warm up for them at a later date. Great, easy and delicious recipe! Thanks!!!

  • Timo says:

    Dang, these were awesome! I added cooked crumbled bacon into the cheese mixture and it turned out delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Brooke Alexa says:

    Great recipe for one of my favorites growing up!! I used kale in mine instead of spinach and cooked it the same just in a Dutch oven instead of skillet! Very yummy!! And boyfriend loves it!! xoxo

  • jordan says:

    Just made this tonight. So great. We used a little extra ricotta parm and mozz, just because we had it. Unfortunately I burned the fresh garlic so we had to use garlic powder the second go round. Didn’t affect the flavor (that I noticed), still turned out phenomenal! Thanks for my new go to recipe.

  • Carrie Lee says:

    Hi! These look amazing! I cant wait to try the recipe. You said they could be frozen, any idea on heating instructions after being frozen? Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Diane says:

      When I make this delicious recipe I always make extra. I put the stuffed shells on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When frozen I put them n a freezer bag and can remove as many as I want when needed without having them all stuck together.

  • Dianna says:

    Would it be possible to freeze these for later use?

  • Rachel says:

    Laura, I just found this recipe and amazing photo of your spinach-ricotta stuffed shells. I will be making these for our Italian Christmas Eve celebration at my parents house on Tuesday. Thank you so much for posting and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!! :)

  • Anxhela says:

    Thank you for your recipe!!!!!!!! It was as good as it looked. My family loved it and it reminded me of Olive Garden. I will follow this blog more often. Love it!!!!!

  • M says:

    I would like to add ground turkey to this… can I add it into the cheese mixture without ruining them? Or would I need to just add it to the marinara sauce?

    • Laura says:

      I think you could absolutely add it to the cheese/spinach mixture – just make sure the meat is cooked before you stuff the shells (I’m not sure it would cook fully otherwise). Let me know how it turns out! :)

  • Our frozen spinach was freezer burned, so we just subbed in cottage cheese. And extra ricotta. Oh, and I had to use cheddar … but it was still delicious!

  • Lauren says:

    I found this recipe through a search engine last night while at the grocery store and found the photo to be so beautful I just had to try it. Turns out it tasted even better! Everyone went back for thirds! Although your recipe was perfect on its own, I tend to add things and change things up (slightly) while I’m in the middle of cooking. I ended up adding almost the entire bag of spinach (about 3/4 of a large bag), I added about 6 or 7 basil leaves (I grow it fresh from my garden and cut too much and it smelt too wonderful to waste), I also added a tiny pinch of nutmeg and a little granulated garlic to the filling mixture (didn’t think I used enough fresh garlic when I cooked it with the spinach). Once it was ready to go in the oven I also “sprinkled” more of the mozzarella cheese on top of the shells before covering with the tin foil (couldn’t resist). All-in-all it was absolutely the best stuffed shells I, or my family, have ever had! So glad I found it online and it will be a family recipe for life! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ted says:

    I have a problem with judgment calls like”packed”, greatly preferring an objective measure like grams or pounds/ounces. Can anyone help with the spinach amount?

    • Laura says:

      Hi Ted, I’m sorry you found the measurement confusing. I’ve never weighed the spinach for this recipe… I use the term “packed” here to describe full cups of spinach, that have been gently pressed down to reduce the air space between the leaves. In all honesty, this recipe has a lot of wiggle room to it, and using slightly more or less spinach won’t make a huge difference. I hope that helps at least a little bit!

  • Lorna says:

    I made this today and really enjoyed it. Rather then using jarred marinara sauce I made it from scratch which I think made the recipe even better. I like the way this recipe will allow me to play around experiment. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Lorna, I bet it was great with the homemade marinara sauce! That makes any dish even better. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and played around with the recipe!

  • Tami says:

    Thanks for the recipe!! Can’t wait to try!

  • Nora Winchell says:

    I tried these stuffed shells tonight and they were amazing!

  • Joe says:

    They were terrific!….I made them with frozen spinach, boiled then drained really well before putting them in the cooled down oil.

  • Sarah says:

    has anyone cooked this from frozen before? I’m assuming you could freeze it right before you would put it in the oven, but just wondering how much longer it would take in the oven if baked from frozen. thanks!

  • Jamie says:

    I added ground meat to these- ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!

  • Gloria says:

    stuff shells with spinach.

  • HaleyAnneHunt@gmail.com says:

    I can’t wait to make this – how much do you think would be lost by using frozen spinach? (That’s almost a cooking crime but if I’m not sacrificing too much of the dish, the time/space/cost savings might be worth it)

    • Laura says:

      Don’t worry about using frozen spinach. I don’t think too much will be lost and it’s definitely more convenient! Just make sure to defrost the spinach first and drain the extra water before you add it to the cheese mixture. Let me know how it turns out! :)

  • Yum looks amazing. Spinach and Ricotta are a match made in heaven!

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