These are the best zucchini bread muffins! They are light and airy, not dense and greasy. This recipe will turn out every time you make it!
I discovered the joy of stuffed shells shortly after Andy and I were married, it’s all the goodness of lasagna but a little quicker and easier to put together! I have tweaked this recipe quite a bit since then and have stuck with this version for quite a while now, I absolutely love it! My spinach and ricotta stuffed shells have a unique flavor profile that sets them apart from other recipes, and it’s another one of my favorite meals to freeze.
This recipe does take some time and prep – but the good news is you can get it all done in the morning or afternoon and come dinner time, all you need to do is pop the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells in the oven!
That’s my favorite kind of meal! I usually always have more motivation and energy earlier in the day, so I try and knock out dinner as soon as possible, this is the perfect recipe to do just that.
The sauce for this recipe is a quick one – literally only 10 minutes from start to finish. It’s really flavorful with garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Don’t knock the lemon until you try it! It’s very subtle and adds a lovely light layer of freshness to the pasta dish.
It won’t make your face pucker – promise! Andy likes it with the lemon, and that should be proof enough it’s not too weird. 🙂 I keep the spice pretty mild so the flavors balance well and just add a shake or two of red pepper flakes, but by all means spice away if that’s what suits your fancy!
I should also note that when you’re looking at the pile of spinach leaves and the amount of ricotta cheese, you’ll think I’m crazy and that there is no way that much spinach could work with that amount of cheese. But it really shrinks down when you chop it up finely and I think a cup ends up being a really balanced amount for the dish, sometimes I squeeze in a little more.
Spinach is such an awesome vegetable, it has a great mild flavor that works so well in dishes like this! If you have picky eaters or aren’t a huge veggie fan yourself, this is a great way to get some greens. You won’t even notice it’s in this spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe, cross my heart. I add chopped spinach to quite a few of my dishes, it’s a great healthy addition that doesn’t compromise the flavor at all.
I love serving my 60 Minute Herb Bread with these spinach and ricotta stuffed shells, or my Garlic Herb Cheese Bread. If you’re looking to add more veggies to the meal, my easy Stovetop Zucchini pairs super well, or my Quick Spinach Salad with Peach Vinaigrette Dressing!
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
These spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are a family favorite meal. The sauce has a unique flavor, setting them apart from any other stuffed shell recipe.
- 1 pound large shells
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese grated
- 1/4 cup parmesean
For the Filling
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese finely grated
- 1 cup spinach finely chopped (see note)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic crushed or finely minced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes about 1/8 teaspoon
- 30 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest about 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Boil pasta shells until just shy of al dente - they should have a bit of a bite left to them.
For the Sauce
- Heat oil in a large skillet until just shimmering.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and lemon zest.
- Simmer 7 minutes.
- Stir in fresh herbs.
For the Filling
- While the pasta cooks and the sauce simmers, combine all the filling ingredients except the spinach and mix well.
- Gently fold in the spinach until evenly dispersed. Extreme mixing will turn the ricotta green.
- In a 9x13 casserole dish, spread enough sauce to coat the bottom evenly.
- Put about 1 -1 1/2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture in each shell. Some of the shells will break and won't be useable, usually I end up with a few leftover.
- Place stuffed shells in the pan in a single layer.
- Spoon remaining sauce evenly over the top.
- Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan.
- Cover with foil and bake 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
- Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is fully melted and bubbly.
Pack the spinach in the measuring cup, you can use fresh or frozen
If you would like to freeze part of this recipe or are doubling it for freezing, just divide up the shells into portions appropriate for you or your family. Disposable pie plates or bread pans work great for this. Assemble as instructed, except the final topping with mozzarella and parmesan. I find those dry out in the freezer and are better when added fresh right before baking. Thaw before baking, or lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and place frozen in a cold oven. I check halfway through cooking and sprinkle a couple tablespoons of water over the top if things are looking dry. Keep covered the whole time if baking directly from the freezer.
If you'd like to make this dish more hearty, adding cooked meat to the sauce or the filling is a great way to do that.