Freezer Friendly/ Main Dish/ Pasta

Spinach Stuffed Shells

October 19, 2020

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Spinach stuffed shells are large shell shaped pasta filled with Italian sausage, spinach and ricotta cheese. The shells are baked with additional cheese and marinara sauce making this a a delicious meal.

Three stuffed pasta shells with tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and fresh basil on top.

These stuffed pasta shells are a delicious comfort food. It has all the flavors of a lasagna, but instead of layers of pasta, cheese and sauce, the shells are stuffed with a cheese mixture and then baked with a marinara sauce.

I love making this for dinner for my family, but it’s also perfect for serving a crowd. This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in two pans. Make this ahead of time and then bake at dinnertime helps makes getting dinner on the table easy!

A casserole dish filled with stuffed pasta and topped with fresh herbs.

Key Ingredients

A complete list of ingredients and measurements can be found below. Just scroll to the bottom!

  • Jumbo pasta shells – look for the jumbo sized shells so they can easily be filled
  • Spinach – I used fresh spinach, but you could also use frozen
  • Ricotta cheese – Whole milk ricotta is creamier than a skim ricotta. I prefer the whole milk ricotta.
  • Fresh mozzarella – This fresh version can often be found in the deli section of most stores
  • Marinara sauce – Buy your favorite or make your own marinara sauce
  • Parmesan cheese – Use shredded parmesan cheese
  • Italian sausage – Spicy or sweet Italian sausage. You may omit if you’d prefer a vegetarian version.

Steps to make stuffed shells

A complete list of ingredients and measurements can be found below. Just scroll to the bottom!

  • Cook pasta shells
  • Cook Italian sausage. Wipe out pan when finished and use same pan for spinach.
  • Sautee garlic for a few seconds in a pan. Add fresh spinach. I add in large batches, allowing spinach to cook down before adding more. Keep all spinach in pan until it has all been cooked. Remove spinach to a colander and allow spinach to cool. Once cool, squeeze out all liquid. This takes a lot of squeezing. Keep rotating spinach in your hands and squeeze until all liquid is removed.
  • You start out with about 10 cups of spinach, but once it has cooked down and all the liquid squeezed out, you end up with about 1 cup of spinach.
  • Coarsely chop spinach
  • Combine ricotta, parmesan, egg and seasonings together in a bowl.
  • Add chopped spinach and fold until combined
  • Add cooled sausage, be careful to not add any of the grease.
  • Carefully stuff each pasta shell with 3 tablespoons of cheese filling
  • Place each stuffed shell in a greased baking dish with a layer of marinara sauce
  • Continue filling all shells until dish is full
  • Drop spoonfuls of sauce around the filled shells
  • Place diced mozzarella on top of shells
  • Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese over top
  • Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes
  • Remove foil and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes
  • Turn broiler on for an additional 5 minutes and cook until the cheese is slightly browned
  • Remove from oven and allow dish to rest for 10 minutes
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with additional marinara sauce
Spinach stuffed shells on a plate with marinara sauce and topped with fresh basil.

Substitutions and variations

  • Use frozen spinach in place of fresh. Allow spinach to fully thaw and then squeeze out all liquid
  • Omit Italian sausage to make a vegetarian version
  • Use cottage cheese in place of the ricotta cheese. This is a great way to save money when making this dish. The cottage cheese is extra creamy and once cooked, you can’t tell the difference.
  • Add sautéed mushrooms for extra flavor

Serving suggestions

Serve this baked pasta with a Caesar salad and homemade garlic breadsticks.

Other delicious main dishes

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If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @beyondthechickencoop

Be sure to check out all my delicious main dish recipes!

Three stuffed pasta shells with tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and fresh basil on top.

Spinach Stuffed Shells

Kathy
Jumbo pasta shells filled with a cheesy spinach mixture with Italian sausage baked together with a marinara sauce.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Resting Time 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 7 people
Calories 589 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 20 -24 Jumbo Pasta Shells
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage (Spicy or Sweet)
  • 10 ounces Baby Spinach (Fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic (Minced)
  • 2 cups Ricotta Cheese (Whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (Shredded)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
  • pinch Ground Nutmeg
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 4 ounces Fresh Mozzarella (Cubed)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (Shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh herbs (For garnish, optional)

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta shells
  • Cook Italian sausage. Wipe out pan when finished and use same pan for spinach.
  • Sautee garlic for a few seconds in a pan. Add fresh spinach. I add in large batches, allowing spinach to cook down before adding more. Keep all spinach in pan until it has all been cooked. Remove spinach to a colander and allow spinach to cool. Once cool, squeeze out all liquid. This takes a lot of squeezing. Keep rotating spinach in your hands and squeeze until all liquid is removed.
  • Coarsely chop spinach
  • Combine ricotta, parmesan, egg and seasonings together in a bowl.
  • Add chopped spinach and fold until combined
  • Add cooled sausage, be careful to not add any of the grease.
  • Carefully stuff each pasta shell with 3 tablespoons of cheese filling. Place each stuffed shell in a greased baking dish with a layer of marinara sauce. Continue filling all shells until dish is full.
  • Drop spoonfuls of sauce around the filled shells. Place diced mozzarella on top of shells. Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese over top
  • Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes. Turn broiler on for an additional 5 minutes and cook until the cheese is slightly browned.
  • Remove from oven and allow dish to rest for 10 minutes Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with additional marinara sauce

Notes

  • I usually cook a few extra shells in case one falls apart and can’t be used
  • The spinach cooks down from about 10 cups of spinach to about 1 cup of cooked and squeezed spinach
  • To make ahead of time, cover and refrigerate after filling shells and adding sauce and cheese. Bake as directed, increasing baking time by 15-20 minutes.
  • To prevent cheese from sticking to foil, spray foil lightly with a nonstick spray before placing on dish
Substitutions and variations
  • Use frozen spinach in place of fresh. Allow spinach to fully thaw and then squeeze out all liquid
  • Omit Italian sausage to make a vegetarian version
  • Use cottage cheese in place of the ricotta cheese. This is a great way to save money when making this dish. The cottage cheese is extra creamy and once cooked, you can’t tell the difference.
  • Add sautéed mushrooms for extra flavor
 

Nutrition

Serving: 3shellsCalories: 589kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 30gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 1425mgPotassium: 883mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 4764IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 389mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Baked pasta, Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells, Stuffed Shells
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Valentina
    October 25, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    5 stars
    What a comforting meal! My mom used to make something similar to this. Brings back delicious memories. 🙂 ~Valentina

    • Reply
      Kathy
      October 26, 2020 at 4:40 am

      Food brings back such amazing memories!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    October 22, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    5 stars
    Stuffed shells will always remind me of my mom Kathy. She made them often growing up! These look delicious!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      October 24, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      What a wonderful memory. Food takes us back to our roots and there’s nothing better than recreating an old favorite!
      Enjoy 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelly | Foodtasia
    October 22, 2020 at 5:26 am

    5 stars
    So cozy and comforting! How I’d love to cuddle up on the sofa with a bowl of this pasta!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    October 19, 2020 at 8:11 am

    5 stars
    Holy cow, these stuffed shells look amazing, Kathy! We’re visiting Laura’s parents this weekend, and she’s mixing up a big batch of ravioli and meatballs tonight. I put these stuffed shells in the same category – amazing Italian comfort food that I could seriously eat every night of the week. Yum!! Hope your week is off to a good start so far!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      October 19, 2020 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks, David! Have a great visit with your in-laws!!!

  • Reply
    Dawn - Girl Heart Food
    October 19, 2020 at 7:08 am

    5 stars
    If this doesn’t scream comfort food, I don’t know what does! These look incredibly yummy, Kathy! Delicious meal with a simple green salad 🙂

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