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Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

These Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta are a tasty and satisfying meal. Perfect for meatless nights or whenever you’re just craving comfort food, this is a recipe everyone will love!

A serving of stuffed pasta shells on a black plate with gold forks.

Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe

Pasta and some kind of sauce is a common feature on our dinner table, but every once in a while, I like to mix things up. Pasta is a blank canvass, and in this recipe, I’m using conchiglioni pasta shells – jumbo pasta shells – that are made to be stuffed.

The filling is so good. It’s lightly sweet from the creamy ricotta, and the spinach adds just the right amount of herbaceous flavor and a burst of color. The flavours come alive with a touch of chili flakes, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top ties the whole dish together. 

This is an oven-baked dish, but it doesn’t have to be complicated! You can make the dish in several steps getting it ready to bake before serving. I’ll outline those steps below if you want to make this dish bit by bit. 

Grab a bottle of your favorite wine, toast up some garlic bread, and enjoy this delicious Italian recipe!

Overhead images showing all the ingredients to make stuffed shells with spinach and ricotta arranged in little bowls.

What You Need

  • Dry conchiglioni pasta – These are the largest pasta shells.
  • Olive oil – Or your favorite cooking oil.
  • Garlic – Fresh cloves, crushed.
  • Chili flakes – You just need a pinch of red pepper flakes, but you can also omit the chili flakes.
  • Fresh spinach – Using pre-washed baby spinach makes this recipe a breeze.
  • Ricotta cheese – Look for smooth or extra smooth if you can find it. Low fat or full fat – both work well.
  • Marinara sauce – Use a good quality canned/jarred tomato sauce or your favorite homemade sauce.
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper – To taste. 
  • Parmesan – Shredded or grated. 

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How To Make Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

  • Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
  • Boil the pasta shells according to the directions on the package, but cook them 2 minutes less. They should be quite al dente – they’ll finish cooking in the oven. Rinse the shells with cold water to stop the cooking and set them aside.
  • Make the filling. Heat the oil in a 10″ large skillet or cast iron pan then add the crushed garlic and chili flakes. Add the spinach when the garlic is aromatic and cook until the spinach is wilted. Remove from the heat and roughly chop the spinach-garlic mixture. Add the chopped spinach, garlic and ricotta to a bowl and mix well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  • Assemble the shells. Spread the marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. Fill each pasta shell with the spinach-ricotta mixture and place the filled shells on top of the marinara sauce. Top the pasta shells and sauce with Parmesan cheese.
  • Cook covered in the center of the oven until hot and bubbly. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

What is Conchiglioni Pasta?

I’m using conchiglioni pasta in this recipe. Conchiglioni is the name of the pasta shape – the largest pasta shells – and they originate in Campagnia. They are dried and need to be par-boiled before stuffing. 

You can find this pasta shape in most grocery stores, in the dried pasta section.

How To Make Spinach Stuffed Shells Ahead Of Time

This is an easy recipe to make in steps to reduce your time in the kitchen. Here are some tips on making spinach stuffed pasta shells ahead of time.

  • Boil the pasta, chill it and keep it tightly wrapped in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff it.
  • Make the spinach-ricotta cheese mixture and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to stuff the shells. This can be made 1-2 days ahead of time.
  • Fully prepare the recipe right up until it’s time to bake it. This can be prepped 1-2 days ahead of time.

Tips For Success

  • For perfectly tender pasta, the shells MUST be very firm and undercooked before you bake them. Don’t be alarmed if the pasta feels undercooked.
  • Rinse the jumbo shells in cold water after cooking them to stop the cooking process. It also washes any excess starch off the shells and will cool them for easy handling.
  • Pick a dish large enough for all the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells to be in one single layer. A 10″ cast iron skillet is my pan of choice.
  • Cover the dish while baking, or the edges of the pasta will dry out and get hard.
  • Garnish your dish with some fresh basil for a lovely – and tasty – presentation!
Overhead shot of stuffed shells in a cast iron skillet.

Recipe Variations

The best part of cooking in your own kitchen is altering a recipe to fit both what you have on hand and what you like to eat. The best way to change up this recipe without compromising the final outcome is to change up the marinara.

  • Keep the tomato flavor, but kick up the spice with an Arrabiata, aka a spicy marinara.
  • Satisfy your favorite carnivores with a homemade tomato meat sauce.
  • Try a creamy, marinara based vodka sauce.

Serving Suggestions

This stuffed shells recipe is hearty enough to stand on its own, or you can pair it with some tasty sides to make it a complete meal. Some of my favorites include a simple green salad topped with a fabulous dressing, a fiber-rich kale salad with flavors that complement this easy pasta recipe, and my favorite garlic knots or crusty bread.

Two servings of stuffed pasta shells on a black plates.

Storage And Reheating

Leftover stuffed jumbo pasta shells can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. Reheat them thoroughly in the airfryer or oven before eating. A microwave will work in a pinch, but due to the nature of these stuffed shells you can end up with scorching hot outsides and cold insides.

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A serving of stuffed pasta shells on a black plate with gold forks.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Stuffed shells with spinach and ricotta is a delicious vegetarian take on dinner. It's oven baked cheesy goodness in a zesty marinara is comfort food at it's best.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dry Conchiglioni pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • 4 packed cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2.5 cups marinara sauce
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the pasta shells. Cook for 2 minutes less than the cooking instructions suggest. The pasta shells should be al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water and set aside.
  2. Add the oil to a 10" cast iron skillet placed over a medium heat. When the oil is hot add the crushed garlic and chilli flakes. Cook for 1 minute then add the spinach. Cook for 3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.
  3. Remove from the heat, roughly chop the spinach then add it to a bowl along with the ricotta. Mix together well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  5. Use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shell with the spinach and ricotta mixture.
  6. Add the marinara sauce to the baking dish then arrange the pasta shells in a single layer on top of the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste then sprinkle over the parmesan. Put on the lid or cover with tin foil if you don’t have a lid.
  7. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven, serve immediately and enjoy! 

Notes

    • We cook the pasta to al dente because it will be going into the oven once the shells are stuffed. This is to avoid overcooked pasta.
    • Rinse the pasta in cold water after cooking - this will halt the cooking process, wash any starch from the shells and make them easier to handle at the stuffing stage.
    • The chilli is optional.
    • If you can’t fit all the pasta shells in one layer in one pan use a separate pan. It’s better to bake them in one layer.
    • If you have any leftover spinach and ricotta filling you can dot it around the pasta shells.
    • We used a store bought jar of marinara sauce. You can use any tomato based sauce.
    • Be sure to use a lid on your baking dish or cover with foil during cooking otherwise the pasta will dry out and the edges will go hard.
    • Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Reheat thoroughly before eating. 
    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 409Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 1060mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 22g

    Nutrition information is an estimate automatically calculated by Nutritionix. It is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements in your recipe

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