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

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.

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
    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
    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
    July 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    Can you freeze the stuffed shells?

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

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

  • Reply
    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
    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
      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
    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
    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
    March 1, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Made this the other night. We loved it!

  • Reply
    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
    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
    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
      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
    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
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  • Reply
    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
    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!


  • Reply
    January 1, 2019 at 9:40 am

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

  • Reply
    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
    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
      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
      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
      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
    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
    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
    November 15, 2018 at 4:01 pm

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

  • Reply
    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
      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
    November 4, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    It was delicious!!

    • Reply
      November 7, 2018 at 6:05 am

      Thank you, Karlene!!

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