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Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

4.8 stars (17 ratings)

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Prepare a delicious dinner in no time with these baked spinach ricotta stuffed pasta shells. An easy-to-follow, crowd-pleasing recipe stuffed with fresh spinach, creamy ricotta, and nutty Parmesan cheese, this classic comfort food is perfect for meatless nights. With just 20 minutes of hands-on prep and 35 minutes in the oven, you’ll soon enjoy gooey, cheesy stuffed shells perfection.

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

Baked Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe

Pasta is a common feature on our dinner table. Sometimes I like to go over the top with homemade pasta, like in my meatless butternut squash ravioli. Other times it’s as simple as a jar of pesto and some quickly boiled spaghetti. Pasta is a blank canvas, 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 got a gooey cheesy texture from the creamy ricotta, and the spinach adds just the right amount of herbaceous flavor and a burst of color. The flavors 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 is still one of my favorite quick and easy ideas for dinner! You can make the components of the dish 1 – 2 days in advance and assemble it just prior to baking.

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

Overhead shot of stuffed shells in a cast iron skillet.

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Making Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

To make these stuffed pasta shells, you’ll need a few fresh ingredients, like spinach, cheese, and marinara, and a few pantry staples, like olive oil and salt. The large pasta shells originate from Campania, Italy, and can be found in the dried pasta section at most local grocery stores. You’ll often see this pasta shape labeled with its Italian name, conchiglioni, and its American name, jumbo shells. Since they are dried, they will need to be parboiled to soften them before stuffing. 

Overhead images showing all the ingredients to make stuffed shells arranged in little bowls and labeled for clarity.

Featured Cooking Method: Parboiling

This recipe calls for parboiling the pasta. Parboiling means to partially boil and is a cooking method used to partially cook ingredients prior to using them in another recipe. You can parboil vegetables, pasta, rice, and even meats or poultry.

If the pasta was fully cooked, the shells would not hold their shape after being baked in the oven. Careful though! Cook them too little and you end up with rubbery, undercooked pasta. This is why we cook them just shy of al-dente, which should be about 2 minutes less than the package directions recommend.

How To Make Spinach Stuffed Shells Ahead Of Time

This easy recipe can be made 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 store it in an airtight container 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.
  • Assemble the stuffed pasta shells right before it’s time to bake it.

Tips For Success

When tackling a recipe for the first time, there are always extra tips that make it easier to get great results. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making these ricotta cheese-stuffed pasta shells.

  • The shells MUST be undercooked prior to baking, as the pasta will continue to cook and soften as the dish bakes. Don’t be alarmed if the pasta feels a bit firm.
  • Rinse the jumbo shells in cold water after cooking to stop the cooking process. This will also wash any excess starch off the shells and cool them for easy handling.
  • Pick a dish large enough to hold all the filled pasta shells in one layer. I used a 10″ cast iron skillet for the photos, but I found that a small Dutch oven works better, as the lid can go right into the oven.
  • 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!
Two servings of stuffed pasta shells on a black plates.

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.

Storage And Reheating

Leftover stuffed jumbo pasta shells can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for two days. Reheat them thoroughly in the air fryer 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.

Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

Prepare a delicious dinner in no time with these oven-baked spinach ricotta stuffed pasta shells. An easy-to-follow, crowd-pleasing recipe stuffed with fresh spinach, creamy ricotta, and nutty Parmesan cheese, this classic comfort food is perfect for meatless nights. With just 20 minutes of hands-on prep and 35 minutes in the oven, you'll soon enjoy gooey, cheesy stuffed shells perfection.
4.8 stars (17 ratings)
prep: 20 minutes
cook: 35 minutes
total: 55 minutes
servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dry Conchiglioni or jumbo 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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Remove from the heat, roughly chop the spinach then add it to a bowl along with the ricotta. Mix together well.
  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  • Use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shell with the spinach and ricotta mixture.
  • 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.
  • Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, serve immediately and enjoy! 

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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

Serving: 1Calories: 409kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 22gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 1060mgFiber: 5gSugar: 9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.

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About Renee N Gardner

I'm the recipe developer, food photographer, and mastermind behind Renee Nicole's Kitchen, where I help create kitchen confidence to inspire home cooks to become home chefs. No fancy fads here, just high-quality, homemade recipes featuring seasonal ingredients.

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3 Comments on “Baked Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells”

  1. 5 stars
    Just made this for the kids and i. They loved it and so did i. I skipped chili flakes because I didn’t have. And used romano cheese instead of parmesan because i didnt have. Still was a hit. Thanks

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe tonight with no changes. It was so tasty. The red pepper flakes added such a nice flavor to the marinara. My husband said he’d like this dish to be part of our regular menu rotation.

    Reply

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