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
    June 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

    Do you think ground beef could be substituted for the spinach? My cousin isn’t a big green person and my husband is a big meat eater. Regardless, can’t wait to try it tonight!

    • Reply
      June 19, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Hi Casey! Yes, you could absolutely add ground beef, just be sure it’s fully cooked and slightly cooled before adding it to the filling/shells. Hope you enjoy!

  • Reply
    Lita Watson
    June 18, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    Such a nice dish! Why don’t you give more illustration photos or videos about this dish to show everyone how great these shells are?

  • Reply
    Nanny Lou Lou
    June 5, 2017 at 11:26 am

    These were super yummy. I made two 8×8 pans full. I had made extra shell in case they split. So I had eight in one pan and nine or ten in another pan. Inside of using bottle sauce, yuck, I made Giada’s marinara sauce. She has two recipes for marinara but it is the same recipe but halved. I made the one that makes a quart. The only I added to her recipe is that I put in a can of Rotel tomatoes , just to kick it up a notch. These were excellent. I froze the other pan for another day. My husband and I had these for dinner with a garden salad and there is lots for leftovers.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2017 at 3:19 am

    This is an amazing recipe! I’m so glad I stumbled across it! Thank you!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing and making these tomorrow!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Made this for mother’s day and it was such a hit! Added cubed/roasted butternut squash on top for more color, and they looked beautiful coming out of the oven. Even the (very) carnivorous males loved them and were satisfied

  • Reply
    March 12, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I made this for Sunday dinner and everyone really liked it. I tripled it and used more garlic, it was amazing. Even my husband, who doesn’t like garlic enjoyed it. I’ll make this agin for sure! Thanks for sharing your recipe

  • Reply
    March 11, 2017 at 6:27 am

    This is a great recipe. I’m having my “guy’s” vegetarian daughter and her friend over for dinner. The can be served with a side of meat sauce for us and plain sauce for our two guests. No fuss not bother. Thanks!

  • Reply
    March 2, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Excellent, easy, delicious recipe. Made it exactly as written, except added 1/2 lb ground beef to the cheese mixture (cooked it with the chopped spinach.) Will be a staple of my household!!

  • Reply
    March 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I believe I’ve made this for times now. My kids are always excited when I’m making it. A lady in line at the grocery became invious when she saw my ingredients. 😉 Thank you for this family favorite recipe. 🙂

  • Reply
    February 20, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    This was really great!!! Not only was it one of the most easy recipes I’ve ever made, it tasted how I wanted it too! No cut corners in flavor. Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 3, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    So good!

  • Reply
    January 31, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Made this last night for dinner… One word, AMAZING!! This will become a regular in our meal rotation.
    I forgot to add the egg, and didn’t notice until I posted this review that it was an ingredient, and substituted the mozzarella for herbed goat cheese. The filling was delicious enough to eat on its own, but nestled into the shells and sauce was pure decadence. Thanks for the recipe Laura!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Hi Laura,
    I am having guests for dinner tomorrow night. Plan to make this dish, looks delicious. But I do not want the egg, can I use cream cheese as a binder instead? Is it ok to bake cream cheese for that long? Or is it better to just leave out the egg and proceed with the recipe? If so, for how long should I bake? Thanks much

    • Reply
      January 28, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Hi Divya! I think you could cream cheese or just omit the egg. I’d bake at the regular time and temp. The texture will change a little bit, but should still be yummy. Hope that helps!!

  • Reply
    Audrey P
    January 25, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Have made this twice now and followed the receipe as listed except omitted Parmesan (kids don’t like). Turned out great both times. Will definitely be making these again and again.

  • Reply
    January 21, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Very tasty!! Used the ingredients as listed but winged the measurements. Only thing I did different was to sprinkle mozzarella and parmigiano on the top with some fresh basil. Will make again for sure.

  • Reply
    December 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    amazing!! added an indian kick to it by adding jalapeno and my mom said shes so proud of what i created!! <3

  • Reply
    December 13, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    This recipe was fantastic. I followed it exactly (except for the basil I used 1 tsp dried and used shredded Italiano instead of just mozzarella). I used Presidents Choice sweet basil pasta sauce and it was perfect. Everyone who ate it raved, I even took some to my coworkers who all want the recipe! Thanks, this will be made again and again!

    • Reply
      December 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks so much, Valarie!! So happy to hear that 🙂

  • Reply
    December 11, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Made this for a Christmas party last night. People raved about how delicious it was. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!!
    5 Stars!!! (Website won’t let me pick 5, so I am doing it here.)

    • Reply
      December 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Oh I’m so happy to hear that, Suzanne! Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I am a man therefore lazy/looking for simplified processes. I use a piping bag or a large heavy duty Ziploc with the corner cut off to put the stuffing into the shells. It works and saves time.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    OH MY GOODNESS!! I made this for dinner tonight and I had to stop and leave a review. This dish was just absolutely amazing! I substituted the marinara sauce with meat sauce I had from spaghetti I made last night and it was unbelievably incredible! Thank you, Laura—this recipe is now officially in my rotation.

    • Reply
      November 13, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Thanks so much, Adrienne! You made my night 🙂

  • Reply
    October 9, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I’m really going to make this . looks so good .

    • Reply
      October 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks, Helen! Hope you enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    September 23, 2016 at 8:01 am

    All of my kids loved this meal!!

    • Reply
      September 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      Yay! Thanks, Steffanie!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Great recipe — I have made it many times. Works with frozen spinach too. As others have said, this freezes incredibly well. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Nancy Kane
      August 7, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      I am hoping to make this tonight but I have one question please. I have never attempted to cook pasta in the oven??? In the past I would boil my shells to al dante but never heard of cooking them in the oven. Could you elaborate on this for me please. Thanks!!

      • Reply
        August 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm

        Hi Nancy! You’ll still cook the pasta shells al dente (in step one), then stuff them with the filling, cover with sauce, and bake until the cheese is melted and the shells are cooked through. Hope that answers your question! Enjoy!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 5:51 am

    FABULOUS recipe. This is a winner– and freezes SO well. I had leftovers so wrapped them in tinfoil and put in freezer. I did this 5 months ago and just took some out yesterday to have for dinner. Just as fabulous 5 months later!

    • Reply
      July 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks, Taylor!! So glad you enjoyed it!

    • Reply
      August 11, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Freezing was my question! How do you reheat? This looks delish!

      • Reply
        September 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        I’m with Amanda. How do you reheat this?

        • Reply
          September 27, 2016 at 11:03 am

          Hi, Gabrielle! You can reheat the shells in the oven two ways. If you’re freezing leftovers or the premade dish (with the sauce), simply cover with foil and bake at 375. The shells will defrost while they bake, which will take a little bit longer than the regular recipe (somewhere in the 30-40 minute range), before uncovering and baking an additional 10-15 minutes. You can also fill the shells and freeze them before adding the sauce/cheese, which makes them a little more flexible for different sized portions. Just add them (frozen or slightly defrosted) to a baking dish, add sauce, and bake. Hope that helps!!

  • Reply
    May 21, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Very good. thanks!

  • Reply
    May 4, 2016 at 10:57 am

    If the finished product tastes as good as the filling does, this is sure to be a winner tonight! Definitely a step up and above the traditional stuffed shell recipe!

    • Reply
      May 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Thanks, Beth! Hope you enjoy the finished dish!!

  • Reply
    May 4, 2016 at 4:39 am


  • Reply
    April 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Laura – I’m having a neighborhood party in a few weeks. I made your shells tonite for my husband and myself as a test run. Fabulous!!! Your shells will be front and center on Derby Day.
    Thanks for sharing it with us

  • Reply
    April 4, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Hi! Came across this recipe on Pinterest and I have to say this is an AMAZING dish! I made it tonight for dinner and my husband and I both absolutely loved it. I will be making this many more times and plan to pass it along to my sister. I do have one question though: What is a good side dish to go along with these shells? Thanks!

    • Reply
      April 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Alexandra! Thanks so much! I usually pair these shells with a big green salad, with whatever fresh veggies I have on hand to throw in. Lately, we’ve been loving a baby spinach/cucumber/feta/kalamata olive combo.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Just made it. Very good. I am interested to see how the 11 year old likes it and if husband notices no meat. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 21, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    I can’t read any comments, so I don’t know if this has been asked, but how do you think frozen spinach would work? Thanks!

    • Reply
      eve woldt
      April 30, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      It would probably work fine, but I bet fresh spinach would taste better!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Easy and outstandingly delicious! We will most definitely be repeating this recipe!

    PS the boyfriend didn’t even know there was spinach in there…

    • Reply
      March 15, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      So happy to hear that, Jess!

  • Reply
    Anna L
    February 9, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Mine took a little longer to bake uncovered, I had to use a covered glass dish because I was out of foil. Still turned out great, will make again.

    • Reply
      February 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks, Anna!!

  • Reply
    Lilian Pillow
    February 4, 2016 at 5:43 am

    So easy and yet so good. Ill keep doing it.Thks for this gorgeous receipe.

    • Reply
      February 7, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks so much, Lilian!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Super easy, they’re in the oven right now! Hope they come out good as they look!!

    • Reply
      January 30, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Thanks, Valentina! Hope they came out great!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Hi there!

    Could you substitute the spinach for kale and mushroom instead?

    • Reply
      January 27, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Debra! Absolutely – you may just need to adjust the cooking time.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Wow! Fairly easy recipe but looks amazing. Will have to cook it for my wife, she loves pasta

    • Reply
      November 19, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Thanks, Martin! Hope you and your wife enjoy!

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Amazing!! I didn’t have mozzarella so used cheddar, still incredible! will absolutely make again. Will test out freezing them, cuz that would be a fabulous mid week, no time to cook dinner!!!

    • Reply
      October 31, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Thanks, Anastasia! So glad you enjoyed these!

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    At what temp do you cook it at? And if I don’t want the other things just the ricotta cheese do I need to use egg? or can I just use the cheese and it’ll come out normal?

    • Reply
      October 31, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Hi, Brittani – You bake these at 375 degrees F. (see recipe directions above). The egg functions as a binder, to solidify and hold the filling together in the shells, but I’m not sure how good these would taste with just ricotta and none of the other filling ingredients…

    • Reply
      Guiana Modesto
      May 24, 2016 at 4:17 am

      Brittani- the traditional stuff shells recipe calls for just ricotta the egg will add the flavor and bake it properly through. If no egg is used you will taste a difference and may need to cook it longer.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I made these last night and they are delicious! Thank you for the recipe, very simple and not too overwhelming for a weeknight family dinner.

    • Reply
      September 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks, Tiara! So glad you enjoyed my recipe!

  • Reply
    September 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    can you substitute cottage cheese for the riccotta?

    • Reply
      September 10, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Hi Crystal! I haven’t tried that before so I’m not sure… Maybe? I’d be curious to know how it turns out if you try!

      • Reply
        January 17, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        Just tried the recipe with 1.5 cups of 1% cottage cheese instead of the ricotta and it turned out great!

        Awesome recipe Laura, perfect for a college student to make and keep in the fridge!

        • Reply
          January 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

          Thanks, Kathleen! So glad you enjoyed these! (And good to know about the substitution!)

  • Reply
    August 23, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Made these tonight and they were awesome!!! Great recipe, thanks for sharing… My family love it..

  • Reply
    August 11, 2015 at 7:43 am

  • Reply
    July 23, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I just wrote a comment, and it looks like it didn’t go through, so I’m trying this again! I made this recipe about two months ago, and everyone loved it!! It was so good that I want to make the recipe again, and this time I’d like to add some sausage to some of the shells. Does anyone have any recommendations on adding sausage? I want to use a healthier type like chicken sausage. I never cook with sausage. I’m thinking of cooking it in a pan with a little onion before adding it to the mixture. Any thoughts on this? Thanks for your help!

    • Reply
      March 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Colleen – I’m wondering if you ever ended up making these with sausage? If so, would you mind letting me know if you needed to adjust the cook time, etc?? Thanks!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I made this recipe, and it was absolutely delicious! I plan on making these again and would like to add sausage to some of the shells for people who want a little meat in the stuffed pasta shell. Does anyone have any recommendations on doing this? I’m thinking of getting a healthier type of sausage such as chicken sausage. Some come precooked. I think that I may cook it up with a little bit of onion in a pan first of all. I’m open to any ideas to adding sausage … but not too much since I like this dish the way it is! Many thanks for the tasty recipe!

  • Reply
    Donna S.
    July 20, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Made this for dinner tonight….
    Very good…big hit

    Thank you

  • Reply
    July 20, 2015 at 6:50 am

    My 11 year old son made this for us last night and it was a huge hit. The whole family loved these! Can’t wait to enjoy the leftovers.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2015 at 5:32 am

    I am making this for a party Saturday night. I will have two trays on the sternos and of course I’m afraid of it drying out. Trying to figure out the best time to make this.

    Do I make it now and freeze it until Saturday morning then bake? If I do, do I freeze it in the pan with the sauce?
    Do I stuff all the shells the night before (don’t put sauce on yet) and cook morning of the party?
    Do I not make it at all until the morning or very early afternoon of the party?

    I need to transport it and heat it back up on the sternos for a 7pm party and we plan on leaving the house around 3PM. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I made it last night and we all loved it! Thank you so much for posting it.

    • Reply
      May 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Maryam! So glad you all loved the dish!

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