These delicious ricotta and spinach stuffed shells made with classic homemade marinara sauce and stuffed with three types of cheese makes the perfect comfort food that would feed a crowd!
Ever thought that one easy pasta dish can bring so much comfort? These large pasta shells are stuffed with a cheesy ricotta and spinach mixture, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese, and baked to perfection in a delicious homemade marinara sauce. The result is a hearty pasta dish which will please a crowd!
How to Make Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells
Don't be overwhelmed by the list of ingredients, these ricotta and spinach stuffed shells are really easy to make! There are 4 basic steps - boil the pasta, make the marinara sauce, prepare the stuffing, and bake the shells!
To make homemade marinara sauce, sauté onions and garlic, add white wine and seasoning, and mix in tomato paste and canned tomatoes. Then, allow to simmer for a few minutes. The result is the most delicious homemade marinara sauce. If you don't have time to prepare this, you can always use store-bought marinara sauce, but I highly suggest making the classic homemade version. You can make a large batch ahead and once it cools down, refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months!
Preparing the stuffing is super easy. Just combine wilted spinach, ricotta, parmesan cheese, eggs, and a pinch of nutmeg and salt together and your stuffing is ready-to-go!
Stuff pre-boiled pasta shells with the spinach and ricotta filling, place them in a baking tray with marinara sauce, and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Then, bake covered for 20 minutes, and for another 10 minutes uncovered until cheese has melted and beautifully golden brown at the top.
Tips for the Perfect Stuffed Shells
- Boil pasta shells 2-3 minutes less than package instructions until al-dente as they will continue cooking in the oven.
- If you don't have the patience to spoon filling into pasta shells, use a piping bag or plastic bag and cut off the tip.
- Use low-fat ricotta and mozzarella cheese if you want to cut down a few calories.
- Use store-bought marinara sauce if you're short on time.
- Although I prefer to use fresh spinach, this recipe works perfectly well with frozen spinach as well! Just make sure to wilt it (by pouring hot water over it in a colander) and squeezing out extra water (once it has cooled down) before mixing it with ricotta.
- Red-pepper flakes will make the marinara sauce slightly spicy. Decrease the amount or omit completely according to your likings.
Making Ahead and Storing
- Homemade marinara sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored in a sealed glass container in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Ricotta stuffing can be prepared ahead and refrigerated in a sealed glass container one day ahead. Alternatively, you can stuff pasta shells and refrigerate one day ahead (without marinara sauce).
- Once baked, ricotta and spinach stuffed shells can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. These can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Transfer to a plate and reheat in the microwave before serving.
Have you tried these hearty ricotta and spinach stuffed shells? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and don't forget to rate the recipe! Also, don't forget to follow Baked Fig on Pinterest, and Instagram to stay updated with any new recipes! If you're a meat-lover, check out my other delicious comfort food, the Best Cannelloni Bolognese.
Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Shells
- 500 g large pasta shells (dried pasta)
- 5 tbsp grated mozzarella
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium-sized onions finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic finely diced
- 4 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tbsp white wine (optional)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes (approx. 800g)
- ¾ cup water
- 250 g spinach fresh or frozen
- 500 g ricotta
- 100 g parmesan cheese grated
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400F). Boil pasta shells until al dente. Drain, set aside, and allow to cool.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat and sauté diced onions for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds, stirring continuously not to burn garlic.
- Add salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Add white wine (optional) and de-glaze skillet.
- Stir in tomato paste and add chopped tomatoes and water. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until sauce thickens. Sauce needs to be slightly runny and not too thick. Add more water if sauce starts to dry up. Transfer sauce to large bowl to cool completely.
- To wilt spinach, place spinach in a colander and pour 2 cups of boiling water and allow to drain. Squeeze spinach dry once cooled.
- Place wilted spinach, parmesan cheese, ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk until all combined.
- Pour marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish (you may need to separate between 2 dishes, depending on size).
- Stuff each pasta shell with ricotta mixture (around 2 tsp. each, depending on size) and place in baking dish. Sprinkle with a generous amount of grated mozzarella cheese.
- Cover baking dish with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 10-20 minutes until pasta is cooked through and and golden brown at the top. Serve warm.