Ricotta Stuffed Shells! A classic Italian dish that promises a warm and comforting dinner. These jumbo pasta shells are generously filled with a creamy ricotta mixture, all smothered in a rich marinara sauce or your favorite homemade sauce. This dish not only offers a burst of flavor but also a hearty, crowd-pleasing vegetarian dish that can be whipped up in just 50 minutes. This will become a new family favorite!
⭐️ Why You'll Love These Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Hearty and Comforting: Perfect for family dinners or holiday meals.
- Versatile: Suitable for both children and adults.
- Quick to Prepare: Ready in just 50 minutes.
- Vegetarian Delight: A meat-free option that doesn't skimp on flavor.
🧾 Key Ingredients
- Jumbo Pasta Shells: The star of the dish, holding all the creamy filling.
- Ricotta Cheese: Adds creaminess and richness to the filling.
- Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese: Provides a melty, cheesy texture and flavor.
- Fresh Spinach: Adds a healthy touch and complements the cheeses.
- Egg: Binds the filling ingredients together.
- Fresh Basil and Italian Parsley: Infuses the dish with aromatic herbs.
- Garlic: Gives a hint of pungency and depth.
- Marinara Sauce: The tangy base that brings everything together.
See recipe card for quantities.
📖 Substitutions & Variations
- Protein Boost: Add ground Italian sausage, beef, or turkey to the filling or sauce.
- Cheese Variations: Experiment with different cheeses like fontina or provolone.
- Vegan Option: Use vegan cheeses and egg substitutes for a dairy-free version.
👩🏻🍳 Step By Step
- Cook the Pasta Shells: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the jumbo pasta shells and cook until they're al dente, which means they should still have a slight bite to them. This is crucial as they'll continue cooking in the oven. Once done, drain and set aside.
- Prepare the Filling: In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, whisked egg, finely chopped herbs, and seasoning. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.
- Saute the Spinach: In a skillet, heat a bit of olive oil. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add fresh spinach leaves and cook until they're wilted. Once cooled, chop and mix into the cheese mixture. *QUICK TIP: You can use frozen spinach that's been thawed and had the excess moisture squeezed out.
- Assemble: Spread a layer of marinara sauce (or this roasted red pepper sauce) at the bottom of a baking dish to prevent sticking. Carefully stuff each pasta shell with the cheese and spinach mixture, ensuring not to overfill. Place them seam-side up in the dish.
- Bake: Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells. For an extra cheesy top, sprinkle additional mozzarella and some parmesan over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden.
💡 Top Tips
- Using a pastry bag or a zip-lock bag with a corner cut-off can make stuffing the shells easier and neater.
- For a spicier kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the marinara sauce or into the cheese mixture.
- Garnish with fresh basil or parsley before serving for added freshness and color.
Slow Cooker Method
- Preparation: Before using the slow cooker, ensure you've boiled or soaked the pasta shells as mentioned above. This step is crucial as the slow cooker won't cook the pasta the same way an oven would.
- Layering: Start by spreading a layer of marinara sauce at the bottom of the slow cooker. This not only adds flavor but also prevents the shells from sticking. Next, place the stuffed shells seam-side up. Once all shells are placed, pour over the remaining marinara sauce ensuring all shells are covered.
- Cooking: Cover the slow cooker with its lid. Set it on low and let it cook for 5-7 hours. The slow, consistent heat will ensure the flavors meld beautifully.
💡 Top Tips
- If you're short on time, you can set the slow cooker on high and cook for 3-4 hours, but the low and slow method is recommended for best results.
- About 30 minutes before serving, sprinkle additional mozzarella on top for a melty, cheesy finish.
- For those who love a meaty flavor, consider adding cooked ground beef or Italian sausage to the marinara sauce.
- Fridge: Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.
- Freezer: Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag. Can be stored for up to 3 months.
- Reheat: In the oven at 350°F until heated through.
Absolutely! You can prepare the stuffed shells, refrigerate them, and bake just before serving.
A simple green salad, garlic bread, or roasted vegetables pair beautifully.
Yes, you can experiment with other cheeses. Fontina or provolone can be a good substitute for mozzarella, and cottage cheese can sometimes be used in place of ricotta, though the texture will be slightly different.
Absolutely! There are many gluten-free jumbo pasta shell options available in stores. Just ensure you follow the cooking instructions on the package, as gluten-free pasta can have a different cooking time and texture.
To make vegan stuffed shells, replace the cheeses with vegan alternatives available in most grocery stores. Instead of an egg, you can use a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2.5 tablespoons water) as a binder.
Yes, ground beef, Italian sausage, or even ground turkey can be cooked and mixed into the marinara sauce or combined with the cheese filling for a meaty variation.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Perfect salads to serve with ricotta stuffed shells:
If you tried this Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
You can also find weekly meal plans and budget recipes over on our sister site Savvy Bites.
Easy Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 12 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, optional
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (plus extra for topping)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped (or ½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
- If using fresh spinach, wash and chop it finely. If using frozen spinach, ensure it's thawed and squeeze out any excess water.
Cook the Pasta Shells:
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the jumbo pasta shells until they're al dente. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the Filling:
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the spinach and cook until wilted (if using fresh) or heated through (if using frozen). Season with salt and pepper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, nutmeg (if using) and the sautéed spinach mixture. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Assemble the Dish:
- Spread a layer of marinara sauce at the bottom of a baking dish.
- Carefully stuff each pasta shell with the cheese and spinach mixture and place them seam side up in the dish.
- Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells. Sprinkle additional mozzarella on top.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
- Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
- Garnish with fresh basil or parsley before serving.
- For an extra cheesy top, you can add more mozzarella or even some provolone cheese before the final 10 minutes of baking.
- If you like a bit of heat, consider adding some red pepper flakes to the cheese mixture or sprinkling on top before baking.
- This dish pairs wonderfully with a fresh green salad or garlic bread on the side.