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Loaded with four different cheeses, spinach, and marinara sauce, this Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe is a dish you’ll come back to again and again! Ready in less than an hour, this vegetarian Italian favorite is perfect for busy families during the week, any time of the year!
We love pasta bakes because they’re so easy to throw together and quick to put on the table! If you’re a fan of the classic Italian spaghetti flavors, try our Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Casserole, and if you’re looking for something a little creamier, our Tuna Noodle Casserole is sure to hit the spot!
My Favorite Stuffed Shells Recipe
When I think of comfort food, two things come to mind: a warm bowl of soup and a hearty casserole or baked pasta. The Italians really know how to make their comfort food well, and this Stuffed Shells with cheese recipe is no exception!
It’s extremely rich and filling, thanks to the cheese and pasta, and it’s loaded with flavor! Fresh basil, marinara sauce, spinach, garlic, and herbs all come together to make the classic Italian flavors that you find in so many of their pasta and pizza dishes.
Plus, if you are someone who loves cheese, this is definitely the recipe for you. I loaded this stuffed shells recipe with four cheeses: ricotta, cream cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan so that it is incredibly satisfying!
The pasta shells used in this stuffed shells with spinach recipe are known in Italian as “conchiglie” which means “shells” or “seashells” because they look a lot like conch shells that you’d find at the seaside. They are made in different sizes as well: conchigliette is a small shell shape, and conchiglioni is the larger shell for stuffing that we use here.
To prep them, you just have to cook them until they are al dente, as you would any normal pasta. While they boil, throw together the filling, then drain the shells and stuff them before arranging in a casserole dish and covering with sauce and cheese. Easy peasy!
Ingredients for Stuffed Shells
- Cheese: Four types of cheeses are used in this stuffed shells recipe: ricotta and cream cheese for creaminess, mozzarella to add a gooey texture, and parmesan for some cheesy sharpness.
- Fresh basil: Fresh basil is one of my all-time favorite ingredients to put in classic Italian recipes like pasta and pizza. It adds such an aromatic flavor, and you don’t need much to make an impact.
- Italian seasoning: In Italian seasoning, you’ll find a blend of classic Italian herbs like basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. They add tons of flavor as well!
- Salt & pepper: These key culinary ingredients bring out all of the other flavors in this stuffed shell dish.
- Egg: An egg helps binds the filling with all of the cheeses together, and also raises it slightly when cooking.
- Garlic powder: We’re making Italian, you knew garlic would be in here somewhere! I opted for garlic powder this time, but a clove of fresh garlic, minced, would be fine.
- Fresh spinach: These leafy greens are cooked until wilted and added to the cheese mixture. Spinach and ricotta go so well together! You could use frozen spinach that has been thawed and had a lot of the water squeezed out.
- Marinara sauce: I used storebought this time to make this stuffed shells recipe quick and easy (Rao’s is my favorite brand), but you could always make homemade marinara sauce instead!
- Fresh parsley: To garnish at the end! Completely optional, but I love the added freshness and bit of color it brings.
How to Make Stuffed Shells with Ricotta Cheese & Spinach
- Prep and rinse. Firstly, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray to help keep the shells from sticking and make cleanup easier. Cook pasta shells according to the package directions in salted, boiling water, then rinse with cold water.
- Spread the sauce. Secondly, spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Mix and fill. Next, combine ricotta cheese, half of the mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Fill each shell and arrange them in rows in the baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
4. Bake. Finally, cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
How to store this pasta bake
Store these stuffed pasta shells in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge. You can also prep and refrigerate it a day or two before, and then cook it when you’re ready. Just make sure you don’t over-cook the pasta shells when you boil them, so they keep their shell-shape. Reheat it in the oven or microwave until it’s piping hot.
Can I freeze Stuffed Shells?
Yes! This is a great dish to make and freeze for later. You can freeze it either before it’s baked, or freeze the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before heating or reheating it in the oven.
What goes with stuffed shells?
These spinach and ricotta stuffed shells can be eaten on their own, however, a fresh, zesty salad balances them out perfectly! It’s also goes really well with bread. Here are a few suggestions to try:
- An Italian salad with crisp romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and pepperoncini served with my copycat Olive Garden Salad Dressing
- Fall Panzanella Salad
- Chopped Kale Salad
- Zucchini Salad
- Grilled Garlic Bread
- Easy Rosemary Focaccia Bread
- Soft Garlic Parmesan Homemade Breadsticks
- Roasted Garlic and Rosemary No-Knead Artisan Bread
More Italian Recipes Like This
- Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
- Legit Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
- Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage
- The Best Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
- Easy Minestrone Soup
- Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- Italian Wedding Soup
- 20-24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked 1 minute short of package directions
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 pound (4 cups) fresh spinach, cooked in boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to ice water bath, then squeeze out water (optional)
- 3 cups marinara sauce, divided (1 28-ounce jar)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. Cook pasta shells and rinse with cold water.
- Spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Combine ricotta cheese, half of the mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Fill each shell and arrange them in rows in the baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and cheese.
- Cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes until cheese it melted and starting to brown on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 811Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 1080mgCarbohydrates: 113gFiber: 8gSugar: 8gProtein: 38g
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.