Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

posted on May 13, 2013 by Laura 65 Comments

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 14 reviews
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe by:
Yield: 4 Servings
  • 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
  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.






  • Reply 21 Vegetarian Recipes - My Life, Blogged. September 21, 2014 at 9:32 am

    […] Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells […]

  • Reply Angela September 20, 2014 at 1:46 am

    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.

    • Reply Laura September 21, 2014 at 9:41 am

      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!

  • Reply Judith Markham September 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

    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?

    • Reply Laura September 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

      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.

  • Reply Adina September 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    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?

    • Reply Laura September 15, 2014 at 8:35 am

      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!

  • Reply Katie July 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

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

    • Reply Laura July 18, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks, Katie! So glad you all loved the recipe!

  • Reply Dorothy Taylor July 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

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

    • Reply Laura July 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      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!!

  • Reply steph July 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    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!

    • Reply Dorothy Taylor July 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Want to service spinach & ricotta stuffed shells for dinner party…but what do I serve with it?? If a salad,,,what kind of salad?? HELP!!

  • Reply Chris April 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    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!

    • Reply Chris April 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      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…

      • Reply Laura April 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm

        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!

      • Reply Emily April 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

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

      • Reply Angela June 21, 2014 at 5:43 am

        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. :)

  • Reply Stevi April 6, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    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!

  • Reply Kelly March 31, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    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!

    • Reply Mark Janov April 5, 2014 at 3:55 am

      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

  • Reply Heaven March 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    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?

    • Reply Heaven March 30, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      *salad, not sala.

    • Reply Kim Dachtler April 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Salad and garlic bread or bread sticks ~

  • Reply The shells aren’t the only things that are going to be stuffed! | Exploring Exotic Ethnic Foods March 16, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    […] A simple link to the recipe can be found here! […]

  • Reply Deborah March 4, 2014 at 8:39 am

    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!!!

  • Reply Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells | Do It And How February 16, 2014 at 7:41 am

    […] Instructions HERE […]

  • Reply Timo February 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

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

  • Reply Be a Food Network Star in Your Apartment Kitchen – Cooking for One | Simply Camden February 11, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    […] Monday: Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wrap Tuesday: Honey Broiled Salmon with Parmesan Roasted Green Beans & Twice Baked Red Potatoes Wednesday: Personal Pizza (My favorite is with Caramelized Onions,  Fresh Mozzarella, Pesto and Steak. You can of course go nuts and get your own toppings. Just follow directions for whichever dough you choose to use from your grocery list.) Thursday: Stuffed Red Peppers w/ Side of Spanish Rice Friday: Baked Stuffed Shells […]

  • Reply Brooke Alexa February 7, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    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

  • Reply jordan February 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    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.

  • Reply Carrie Lee February 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    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!

    • Reply Diane August 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      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.

      • Reply Laura August 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        Definitely going to start doing this… Thanks, Diane!

  • Reply Tasty Stuffed Shells | Syd of the Week December 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    […] My mom and I hosted a dinner party on Monday, the 23rd, and we wanted to create a super tasty main dish. Because we were cooking for a total of nine people, we wanted something relatively easy. We decided on Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells from Fork Knife Swoon. […]

  • Reply Dianna December 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Would it be possible to freeze these for later use?

    • Reply Laura December 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Yes, you can either freeze them prior to baking, or freeze the leftovers.

  • Reply Rachel December 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    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!!! :)

  • Reply Anxhela December 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    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!!!!!

  • Reply M December 11, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    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?

    • Reply Laura December 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      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! :)

  • Reply Eli@coachdaddy December 2, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    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!

  • Reply Lauren November 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

    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!

  • Reply Ted November 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    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?

    • Reply Laura November 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      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!

  • Reply Lorna November 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    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.

    • Reply Laura November 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      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!

  • Reply Tami November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm

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

  • Reply Weekend of Wow | Just Call Me Janks November 4, 2013 at 8:41 am

    […] recipe. Stuffed shells are a favorite food for us, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. I altered the recipe from Fork Knife Swoon, and everything turned out […]

  • Reply Nora Winchell October 19, 2013 at 12:35 am

    I tried these stuffed shells tonight and they were amazing!

    • Reply Laura October 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Thank you, Nora! So glad you enjoyed them! :)

  • Reply 15 Recipes with Spinach October 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

    […] Recipe and Photos credit to forkknifeswoon.com […]

  • Reply Joe October 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

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

    • Reply Laura October 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks, Joe! I’m so glad you liked them!

  • Reply Sarah October 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

    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!

  • Reply Jamie October 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I added ground meat to these- ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!

    • Reply Laura October 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I’m glad you like these!

  • Reply Gloria August 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    stuff shells with spinach.

  • Reply HaleyAnneHunt@gmail.com July 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    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)

    • Reply Laura July 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      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! :)

  • Reply 50 Awesome Vegetarian Recipes - A Helicopter Mom July 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    [...] 37. Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells [...]

  • Reply Brooke Schweers May 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

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

    • Reply Laura May 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Thanks, Brooke! It’s one of our favorites…

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