Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells is an easy vegetarian dish. Large shell pasta is stuffed with spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheese then topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and baked in the oven.
Many spinach and ricotta stuffed shell recipes use a simple marinara sauce. It is delicious and you can’t go wrong if that is what you have. I decided instead to use vodka sauce which offered a smooth creamy tomato sauce. It paired perfectly with the spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling.
Spinach is a great vegetable. It has plenty of nutrients and a mild flavor. Like most spinach and ricotta stuffed shell recipes, I sautéed some onion and garlic for the filling. I also add a scant pinch of ground nutmeg which pairs well with the spinach and the cheese. This seasoning with the vodka sauce was an nice unexpected twist on this classic recipe.
Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells can be made ahead of time, covered and left in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. It is a delicious family meal you can prepare on the weekend and pop in the oven when you get home from work. I usually serve this tasty meatless dish with a fresh salad. It’s perfect for meatless Monday.
What you’ll need
- Jumbo pasta shells (like Barilla jumbo shells)
- ground nutmeg, salt and pepper
- 2 bunches fresh spinach (4 cups)
- ricotta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- mozzarella cheese
- vodka sauce (one jar, or marinara sauce)
- Italian parsley or basil for garnish (if desired)
How to prepare spinach and ricotta stuffed shells
To make the stuffed shells, there are basically 3 main components. First, cook the pasta el dente. Second, prepare the filling. Third, stuff the shells and bake. They can be prepared ahead of time, covered in the fridge with plastic wrap and baked at another time or next day.
Spinach cooks quickly. A giant pile of spinach will wilt to a much smaller quantity. If necessary, sauté one bunch of spinach with the seasonings, transfer to a bowl and then wilt the second bunch. Once the spinach has cooled you can chop it further and add it to the cheese mixture.
Combine the sautéed spinach in a bowl with the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg. Stir it up to combine. The shells are now ready to be stuffed. Next spread about 1/2 of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. I use a 9×9 square casserole dish. Stuff each shell with a spoonful of filling. As you can see from the picture below, the shells are not overstuffed, but are generously filled. Line the shells face up in the baking dish.
Next, top the shells with the remaining sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. At this point you can cover it and refrigerate or bake it.
Bake the stuffed shells in a preheated oven (375 F) for 20-30 minutes or until it is bubbly and the cheese has melted.
I find the stuffed shells to be quite filling. This recipe is enough for my family of four. You’ll need a square or smaller rectangle oven safe baking dish approximately 9×9 in size. Serve this dish with additional vegetables or a hearty salad and you’ll be satisfied.
I hope you enjoy this delicious spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe. Please leave me a comment below.
Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells
- 15 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups vodka sauce
- sprigs of fresh Italian parsley or basil for garnish if desired
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the package instructions. Drain.
- In a large skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and cook until it becomes tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the spinach and cook for about 2-3 minutes until it wilts. Add the ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to season. Work in batches if necessary. Transfer the spinach to a large bowl to cool.
- Add the ricotta, Parmesan and egg. Stir to combine creating the filling.
- Spread about 1/2 of the sauce into the bottom of a 9×9 oven safe baking dish. Stuff the shells with a spoonful of filling and lay face up in the dish.
- Top the stuffed shells with the remaining pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until it is bubbly and the cheese has melted.
- Top with sprigs of Italian parsley or basil for garnish. Serve hot.