May 13, 2013

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

In this easy spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe, three cheeses combine with quick sauteed spinach and jumbo pasta shells for a hearty and comforting, crowd-pleasing vegetarian dinner.

spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe from forkknifeswoon.com

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 spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe, 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.

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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

Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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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314 Comments

  • Reply
    Naya
    February 9, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I used Classico pasta sauce sweet basil. In my cheese mixture I added nutmeg. Taste cheese mixture before adding egg. At the end I covered with remaining sauce added sprinkle raw cane sugar, Parmesan, mozzarella. My kids loved it.

  • Reply
    Shama
    January 29, 2020 at 1:54 am

    Very time consuming in my opinion but outstanding result. Absolutely delicious!

  • Reply
    Emily
    January 23, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Is this recipe easy to make a day ahead and cook the next day? If not, can the filling be made ahead of time?

    • Reply
      Laura
      January 23, 2020 at 10:15 am

      Hi, Emily! Yes, you can definitely make this ahead of time, just cover tightly and refrigerate. Depending on what type of pan you use, you may need to add a little extra to the baking time (especially true of ceramic pans which hold onto the cold longer). The filling can also be made ahead of time, on its own. The only thing to note is that sometimes ricotta can separate/weep over time, which has no bearing on the taste but isn’t quiiite as pretty 😉 Alternatively, you can also freeze the shells to bake at a later date. Enjoy!!

  • Reply
    Amber Bruot
    December 12, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    It was easy to make and tasted amazing. It was definitely a winner with the family.

    • Reply
      Laura
      December 18, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks so much, Amber!!

  • Reply
    Erin
    November 19, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    So good and super easy to make! Followed recipe exactly.

    • Reply
      Laura
      November 21, 2019 at 7:19 am

      Thanks so much, Erin!!

  • Reply
    Soon-Hi
    November 12, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    This recipe was amazing! I made it for friends and they really loved it! I used manicotti instead of shells. This bumped the bake time to 40 mins at 400 degrees. I also added lemon zest, oregano and red pepper flakes to my ricotta mixture. I would recommend Rao’s basil and garlic pasta sauce if you aren’t looking to make one from scratch. I will definitely make this again.

  • Reply
    Birdie Harms
    November 1, 2019 at 10:48 am

    My granddaughters and I made this today for lunch. They really had fun doing it and it was DELICIOUS!!! We made it exactly to the recipe except we made our own red sauce. I used a 29 oz. can of tomato sauce and spiced it with 2 T olive oil, 2 tsp garlic, 1 T of italian seasoning, 1 T parsley flakes, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, salt and pepper stir and cook. Less expensive than buying the ready made and a lot tastier.

  • Reply
    Amy
    October 27, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Amazing! The whole family loved it.

  • Reply
    Kelly Schultz
    October 20, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    tip: put the filling into a ziplock bag, snip the bag and use it like a pastry bag to fill the pasta. if you have leftover, then you can knot or clip the snipped end and freeze, add it to the next pasta dish you make (is also a good way to hide the spinach in bolognese from the kids 😉 and up the vege content of soups). I’ve also made successfully with Persian feta, goat cheese, and cream cheese if you don’t like ricotta texture.

  • Reply
    Adrienne
    October 16, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Good recipe. I added a splash of heavy cream to the ricotta to make it a little less grainy. Also did not saute spinach first, I had some fresh and just chopped it up. I also had some leftover cooked ground beef from tacos, and added that. It was fine!

    • Reply
      Emily
      October 22, 2019 at 6:52 am

      Easy and delicious recipe. Wondering if this freezes well and if so what the reheating/cooking instructions would be?

  • Reply
    Nancy Arcand
    October 1, 2019 at 3:30 am

    Followed recipe and found texture crumbly (ricotta), even with alk tbe cheese. What could have made this better?

  • Reply
    Etta
    September 7, 2019 at 5:54 am

    These are amazing! All 3 of my kids ate them up and my husband kept complimenting me on dinner:) thanks for sharing this recipe, it’s a family staple now!
    I didn’t have fresh basil so I had to use dried, and I used bacon grease to saute the garlic and spinach in. Other than that, I followed it to a T.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    August 24, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    I love this recipe! I follow it to a T and comes out perfect every time! I do crumble hot Italian sausage in a pan and cook that, then separate the recipe in half and do half veggie (only spinach) and half with the added sausage! SOOO delicious! Have used this recipe so many times and never fails me 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen
    August 20, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    I love how this recipe can be done on a weeknight and it turned out super delicious. I only changed the mozz and sub’d in pearl fresh mozz, 8 oz pouch. It was less expensive so I went for it.

  • Reply
    Meghan
    July 8, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Holy. Crap. This recipe is amazing! I made my own marinara sauce, used frozen spinach, and sprinkled the leftover mozzarella on top, with a quick broil at the end. Everyone absolutely loved it. I do agree that it takes longer than stated to put together, but it can also be prepared well ahead of time, and I literally eyeballed everything. Five solid stars!

  • Reply
    Lauren
    July 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Can you freeze the stuffed shells?

  • Reply
    Amanda
    June 20, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I love this recipe and so does the whole family. 🙂 I sometimes use frozen spinach instead.

  • Reply
    Megan
    June 1, 2019 at 5:02 am

    It did take me a bit longer to make since you need to stuff individual shells but it was delicious.

  • Reply
    Wendy McPeake
    May 28, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Delish! A favourite in my family.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    March 24, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    This recipe is in my top 5 favorites. I’ve been making it for years and it is always a hit! I like to add mushrooms to mine.

    • Reply
      Laura
      April 14, 2019 at 8:46 am

      So happy to hear that! Thanks, Sarah!!

  • Reply
    Sally DuPerron
    March 10, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Made this recipe more than once and the family loves it. It is a little messy stuffing the shells but well worth the time.

  • Reply
    Maggie
    March 9, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve been making this recipe for a long time and it’s always a major hit in our house! We love spinach, and the mixture works well in lasagna too. I’m actually not a big ricotta fan, but the additional ingredients give it a much more palatable texture for me to enjoy!

    As others have said, you dont have to exact in your measurements. I usually make a double batch and freeze part of the mixture. It holds up well and then I have it ready for a weeknight when I don’t have as much time!

    Italian sausage tastes really yummy with this as do meatballs. I usually throw in one or the other while baking it to make my husband happy. 😉

  • Reply
    Kayla
    March 2, 2019 at 11:15 am

    This is straight-up the best “impress your neighbors” recipe out there! So good, and leftovers taste just as great! Definitely a favorite at our house.

  • Reply
    Micki
    March 1, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Made this the other night. We loved it!

  • Reply
    Brad
    February 11, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    **for a time saver, use a block of frozen spinach and toss in the microwave. Less to clean up and makes prep time shrink**

    I’ve been making this for s few years now and it always gets rave reviews! The best part is nothing needs to be measured precisely. One can simply dump everything together loosely measured and season to taste. So good! Thank you for a delicious and quick weeknight hit!

  • Reply
    Lynn
    February 2, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I left a previous review, but after making it again I wanted to add some things. First of all there is no way that 16 jumbo stuffed shells fit into an 8 x 8 pan. (others have mentioned that) I was serving 12 people so I increased the amount of the ingredients and fit 22 jumbo shells (squeezing them) into a 9 x 13 inch pan. I used a big bag of baby spinach from Trader Joe’s, it cooks down so much and then you don’t have leftovers, more garlic and more fresh basil. Also used the entire 16 oz container of ricotta and most of 1 26 oz jar of marinara. One of my main complaints about recipes is the “prep time”. Not just this recipe, but most of them. There is no way you can put this together in 15 min unless you have all of the ingredients out and measured, chopped and ready to go. So be sure you plan accordingly. To me all of that gathering, measuring and chopping needs to be added to the prep time. I think it took me 15 minutes just to stuff the shells and put them in the pan. All that being said it is a great recipe, so easy to make ahead and refrigerate, then put into cook just before serving. It served 12 easily with enough left over for my lunch the next day. For the meat eaters I put a couple of bags of Trader Joe’s Italian style meatballs in the crockpot with more of the marina sauce in the morning.

    • Reply
      Kelly Schultz
      October 20, 2019 at 8:55 pm

      I shove it all in a food processor (and any stray mushrooms or herbs in fridge) – blitz for a few seconds – put in a baggie, snip, fill, pour jar sauce over, pop in oven, 10 minutes out top with melty cheese. It might get more flavor if you brown the garlic, but I also put in some powered garlic and onion for added flavor. Use fresh spinach and you’ve got plenty of moisture to cook the pasta. Not worth the fuss to precook anything. I reckon I can get it all done and in oven and cleanup in dishwasher in 10! Cannelloni works same way – better still involve the kids and they can make dinner! It’s the go to for vegetarian company.

  • Reply
    sandy
    January 31, 2019 at 9:21 am

    has anyone ever made it with cottage cheese in place of ricotta. I sometimes do in lasagna so was wondering if it would work in these.

    • Reply
      Sammy_T
      February 2, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Every time! I followed this recipe, but instead of replacing the ricotta – I just add some additional cottage cheese! Yum!

  • Reply
    Lynn
    January 28, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I’m making this again tonight for my Bunco group. Very tasty! I did add extra spinach, extra fresh basil and a pinch of nutmeg as one reviewer suggested. The really great part is how easy it is to put together ahead of time, have everything cleaned up and just pop in the oven before all ready to go.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 23, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Made this tonight and we all loved it! Will definitely make again. Recipe was clear and easy to follow.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 12, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    The day I found this recipe it absolutely changed my life. Everyone that has ever tried this recipe (including myself) has said “These are amazing, they taste better then going to a restaurant”. I’m not one to brag about my cooking but these stuffed shells are so amazing and make me feel like I’m a brilliant chef 🙂 I make these all the time year round! I follow the recipe step by step and it has never failed me!

    Thanks

  • Reply
    Shakoya
    January 1, 2019 at 9:40 am

    It was an ok recipie. Not to flavorful though. Kind of bland.

  • Reply
    MomSandie
    December 24, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve made this many, many times and it is always so good! Fresh basil is hard to come by in the long Minnesota winter unless I drive pretty far to a ‘specialty’ grocery store so I just use a jarred pesto (about 1/4 cup) and it works great!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    December 23, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    This is my most favorite recipe for stuffed shells! Thank you for sharing ! 🙂 I’ve made it countless times for my husband and I and we never get sick of it!

  • Reply
    Debbie A
    December 14, 2018 at 3:24 am

    You’re not saying what kind of marinara sauce you used so how’s everybody saying this is so good if you don’t know what sauce is being used…. there has to be some fake reviews in this the recipe without stating how to make marinara sauce

    • Reply
      Natalie
      December 19, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      This was absolutely amazing! Debbie, I think the sauce is more of a preference. The first time i made this i used store brand marinara and this time i used Simply Ragu. That being said both sauces didn’t make a huge difference in taste, still delicious! 😊

    • Reply
      Pam
      December 20, 2018 at 9:53 am

      I agree with Natalie. Though simply Ragu is my new favorite sauce of late. 🤗

    • Reply
      Sandy Hafenbrack
      December 22, 2018 at 10:31 am

      Can I make this the night before and bake it the following day?

    • Reply
      Linda
      August 7, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      I used cheap marinara in a can from the dollar store and the recipe still came out fine. Marinara is marinara…basically tomatoes, salt, olive oil and garlic. Can add onions and spices, too, but not necessary.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    December 12, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Delicious. Easy-to-follow recipe and completely doable for a novice cook. I hate to cook, but I love to eat. And I was so thankful this recipe didn’t give me an anxiety attack or an aneurysm while making dinner for my kiddos… (which is what usually happens.) It’s always a win when at least 1 of my 2 spoiled and picky (and beautifully and precious) children eat anything I cook.

  • Reply
    Monica
    December 3, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Have you ever made ahead of time and froze? Suggestions on that if you have? Looking to “pre make” Christmas dinner.

    Thank you.

    • Reply
      Nehal Tenany
      December 5, 2018 at 11:22 am

      I have this question as well!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Allie
    November 15, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    So good!!! I’ve made this twice and it’s now one of my favorite recipes.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    November 12, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    This was very simple to make and turned out delicious! I boiled my shells 10 minutes per package instructions if being used to bake and they turned out great. I used a whole jar of sauce and a 16 ounce container of ricotta, and this yielded about 20 or so stuffed shells. I will definitely be making this again and experimenting too!

  • Reply
    Walter Linares
    November 6, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    I made these but for a Friendsgiving tomorrow. They’re currently in the oven but not sure if I can just reheat them in the oven tomorrow morning? Help 😭

    • Reply
      Laura
      November 7, 2018 at 6:06 am

      Sure! They should be fine, just pop them in the oven covered with some aluminum foil until heated through. Happy Friendsgiving!

  • Reply
    Karlene
    November 4, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    It was delicious!!

    • Reply
      Laura
      November 7, 2018 at 6:05 am

      Thank you, Karlene!!

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