Ricotta stuffed shells are a delicious and filling family meal that is perfect all year long. With a homemade pasta sauce and spinach ricotta cheese filling, this Italian meal is sure to become a favorite go-to!
The best thing about these ricotta stuffed pasta shells is that you can make them in advance! Make ahead stuffed shells are a fabulous way to get an incredible dinner without spending all afternoon prepping!
Make them early in the morning, the day before, or prepare them as a freezer meal for later. When you’re ready to eat, simply bake until bubbly and dig in!
While the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells do require work to toss together, it’s honestly not that bad. The sauce, although made from scratch takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. The filling is also easy to toss together, making the hardest parts of the whole recipe the assembly and then waiting for them to finish baking in the oven. Patience is a virtue though!
I should point out that while the sauce for these ricotta stuffed shells is a quick one to make, it isn’t any less flavorful than any other. The garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest all pair well together to create a light and fresh tasting pasta sauce that will have you licking the plate clean afterward.
Every aspect of these stuffed pasta shells with ricotta, from the piles of fresh spinach to the cheese and sauce, come together to create a comforting meal you’ll want to eat over and over again.
How to Make Stuffed Shells
- Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and prepare your shells by boiling them per package instructions until al dente.
How to make your sauce
- In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering.
- Add in the garlic and the red pepper flakes and then cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and lemon zest.
- Let the sauce simmer for 7 minutes.
- Add in fresh herbs and let rest until needed.
How to make the filling
- While the pasta is cooking and the sauce is simmering, combine all of the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl, with the exception of the spinach. Mix well.
- Gently fold in the spinach leaves until everything is evenly dispersed. Note that overmixing will cause the ricotta cheese to turn green.
How to assemble your stuffed shells
- In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread enough sauce to cover the bottom evenly. This helps to prevent the shells from sticking!
- Place about 1-1 ½ tablespoons of the ricotta mixture in each shell. Some shells may break.
- Place your stuffed shells in the pan in a single and even layer.
- Spoon the remaining sauce over the top of the shells.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over the top of the stuffed shells.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.
- Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.
What goes with stuffed shells?
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 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 9×13 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.
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