May 13, 2013

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.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta | Fork Knife Swoon

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • Author: Fork Knife Swoon
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x


  • 16 jumbo pasta shells (Cook a couple of extra shells to allow for a few breaking while the pasta cooks.)
  • 11/2 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
  • 11/4 cups marinara sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 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.


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  • Reply
    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
    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
    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
      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
        August 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        Definitely going to start doing this… Thanks, Diane!

  • Reply
    December 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Would it be possible to freeze these for later use?

    • Reply
      December 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

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

  • Reply
    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!!! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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
    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
      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! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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
    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
    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
      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
    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
      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
    November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm

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

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

    I tried these stuffed shells tonight and they were amazing!

    • Reply
      October 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

      Thank you, Nora! So glad you enjoyed them! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    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
      October 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

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

  • Reply
    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
      December 28, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Yes I have and they turn out wonderfully. Just freeze the shells with the filling and then add the sauce when you are ready to bake. I always have s dozen frozen for a quick meal. Just adjust your cooking time like you would for a frozen lasagna.

      • Reply
        January 1, 2016 at 2:51 pm

        Thanks for your advice, Cindy!!

  • Reply
    October 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I added ground meat to these- ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!

    • Reply
      October 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I’m glad you like these!

  • Reply
    August 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    stuff shells with spinach.

  • Reply
    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
      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! πŸ™‚

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

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

    • Reply
      May 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

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

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