Spinach + Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

by Amy on 7 May 2014

Spinach + Ricotta Stuffed ShellsI love stuffed pasta shells, but rarely make them at home. While it’s an easy meal to make, it does take some time between the preparation, assembly, + baking. However, in the last few weeks, I’ve really started to enjoy making dishes like this, things that take a little time and focus. I put my husband in charge of Baby, and have the kitchen to myself to put on some tunes, and prep + saute at a leisurely pace. Between my music, the kitchen sounds of chopping + sizzling, and the laughter of my husband + daughter drifting in from the other room, it really is my happy place.

And you know what makes me almost as happy as those leisurely Sunday afternoons in the kitchen? These pasta shells. The filling is delightfully creamy, with a sweetness from the caramelized onions, a little kick from the garlic, + a brightness from the spinach. Scooped generously into pasta shells, topped with sauce (either homemade or store-bought, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling) and more cheese, then baked until golden brown + bubbly, this is definitely comfort food.

And perhaps one of the coolest things about this meal? Fearless Baby LOVED it! She’s now 11 months old and eating lots more ‘real’ food. I gave her a tiny bite of the filling + she was all mmms + claps, wanting more. Before I knew it, she had devoured the contents of two shells, no small feat for a tiny human! Let’s hope she continues to be this enthusiastic about my cooking. 😉

Spinach + Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Spinach + Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Spinach + Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

serves 5-6, adapted from Real Simple and Fork Knife Swoon


20 jumbo pasta shells (about half a 12-ounce box)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups (lightly packed) baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus 1/4 cup more for topping
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 cups pasta sauce, such as marinara, roasted garlic, or bolognese, (either store-bought or homemade)


Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water, according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook until starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, 3-4 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. While it’s heating, in a medium bowl, combine the cooled spinach mixture, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, salt + pepper. Pour 3/4 cup of the marinara into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture (it will all be used up between the 20 shells), and place in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce between the shells and drizzle over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the shells begin to brown slightly, the cheese is melted, and the sauce begins to bubble, another 10-15 minutes.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar May 7, 2014 at 6:40 am

These shells look so yummy!! Love the recipe!

2 Rachel @ Baked by Rachel May 7, 2014 at 7:57 am

Such a great dinner idea!

3 Leah | So, How's It Taste? May 7, 2014 at 8:29 am

Yum! I made stuffed pasta shells last weekend. The leftovers are even better I think. Yours looks fantastic!

4 amy May 7, 2014 at 8:31 am

Agree, the leftovers are fab! And you know how much I love me some leftovers!

5 alexandra May 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

One of my favorite dishes to eat, but one I’ve never made myself. It always looks too complicated, but I suppose if I, like you, turn on the tunes and settle in for a relaxing Sunday morning, I can make it myself as well!

6 amy May 7, 2014 at 8:54 am

Oh, you could definitely make this, Alex. All the steps individually are quite easy, it just takes a bit of time. Definitely not a meal you want to do on a night that you only have 15 minutes to spare! But very simple + quite relaxing (in my opinion), especially on a lazy afternoon where you have an hour or so and feel like cookin’. =)

7 Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health May 7, 2014 at 9:34 am

i make something similar every week or so..love the addition of spinach here

8 Anna (Hidden Ponies) May 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

I love stuffed shells but they don’t happen nearly often enough in my kitchen! So fun when the little one can just start eating “real person” food, makes life so much easier :)

9 Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction May 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Love stuffed shells! Perfect dinner idea!

10 angela@spinachtiger May 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

They look so perfect. Glad you’re finding some more time to cook these kind of comforting foods. I’m finding myself too busy to cook lately. Now I’m inspired to start a pot of sauce!

11 Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie May 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I love that she is eating real food like this, that definitely makes your life much easier! How could she not love this anyway ;-)?

12 Kelly May 8, 2014 at 9:56 am

These stuffed pasta shells look incredible Amy! Sounds like an awesome meal and so glad fearless baby is able to enjoy your tasty dinners now too:)

13 danielle May 8, 2014 at 10:12 am

I can’t tell you when the last time I made stuffed shells was. But after reading this – I have a major craving some :)

14 sarah k @ the pajama chef May 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

mmm, can’t go wrong with stuffed shells! delish.

15 Beth May 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm

If your 11 month old loved this dish, that’s high praise indeed! I wouldn’t mind sampling it myself.

16 Monet May 8, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Stuffed shells are pure comfort food! My husband’s family makes them each Christmas. Now I’m hankering for a pan of my own!

17 Lesley Eats May 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Ooh, I may need to try this for Mini Eats. I’ve never had a stuffed shell, but I’m willing to try anything to get something green in her belly!

18 Lucy May 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Great recipe! I made stuffed shells years ago, and somehow it got dropped from my cooking rotation! I will have to add it back in. They are like lasagna, too! I think they taste better the next day.

19 amy May 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I totally agree, Lucy!

20 Erlene May 12, 2014 at 12:11 am

Yum. This is something my family would love to eat. I would love if you shared some of your recipes on the Merry Monday Linky Party.

21 Amy (Savory Moments) May 12, 2014 at 6:17 pm

These look perfect! I always loved stuffed shells and used to request them as a kid for my birthday dinner quite frequently!

22 Sammie May 13, 2014 at 6:05 am

Aww! What a delicious recipe! And yes I do agree! Sometimes it’s nice to make these things at your own time and pace! Definitely a stress-reliever and extremely therapeutic!

23 Annie @Maebells May 13, 2014 at 11:14 am

This looks lovely! Anything with spinach and ricotta and I am in!

24 Jennie @themessybakerblog May 14, 2014 at 11:37 am

Stuffed shells are my favorite. You just reminded me that I need more shells in my life. Alone time in the kitchen is always blissful. Love this recipe!

25 Renee @ CreativeMamaMessyHouse May 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Stuffed shells are probably one of my favorite dishes to make! I like using all sorts of different greens in mine, depending on what I can find at the farmer’s market!

26 amy May 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Love that, Renee! I love tweaking recipes to use fresh, local ingredients. Yum!

27 Stephanie May 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Yaaay! So happy Fearless Baby loves your cooking. My little C seems to have a dairy sensitivity so we haven’t done much ‘adventuring’ lately. :) Hopefully she’ll grow out of it/I will be wrong about it and we’ll be able to try this dish because it sounds delish!

28 amy May 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Hope Baby C’s dairy sensitivity goes away soon! I know that must be a challenge for you. And I’d love for y’all to be able to sample this!

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