Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are saucy, cheesy comfort food at its best! They're filled with a creamy, flavorful mix of fresh spinach, lemon zest, and ricotta cheese.

Stuffed shells

These stuffed shells are saucy, cheesy comfort food at its best. I love the contrast of the chewy pasta with the creamy ricotta filling, and marinara – store-bought or homemade – is the perfect tangy accent for both. After I eat one helping, I always find myself back in the kitchen, unable to resist the allure of seconds. These stuffed shells are just that good!

This stuffed shells recipe is easy to make (and make ahead!), and it’s great for serving a group. If you’re hosting a dinner party or get-together this season, it would be a fantastic dish to add to the menu. Comforting and classic, it’s guaranteed to be a hit.

stuffed shells recipe ingredients

Stuffed Shells Recipe Ingredients

To make this stuffed shells recipe, you’ll need 10-ish basic ingredients. I like to think of them in three parts:

  • The shells – You’ll need jumbo pasta shells to make this recipe.
  • Tomato sauce – Use your favorite store-bought brand (I like Rao’s), or make homemade marinara sauce instead. Both are great!
  • And the ricotta filling – It’s a mix of ricotta cheese and steamed, chopped fresh spinach. I also stir in dried oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, garlic, and grated pecorino cheese for depth of flavor.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Ricotta, steamed spinach, lemon zest, grated garlic, pecorino, red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt in glass bowl

How to Make Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are a fairly impressive dish – they’re flavorful, comforting, and ideal for entertaining – but they’re still really simple to make! Here’s how this recipe goes:

First thing’s first! Before you start mixing up the filling, you’ll need to steam the spinach. When it’s tender and vibrant green, remove it from the heat, place it in a strainer, and squeeze out the excess moisture. Roughly chop it. Then, you can stir it together with the ricotta, pecorino, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, and red pepper flakes to make the filling.

Hand using spatula to stir spinach and ricotta mixture in glass bowl

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. It should be just shy of al dente when you drain it. It’ll finish cooking in the oven.

Hand filling stuffed shells with ricotta mixture

Then, stuff the shells. The fun part! (And the messy part. 🙂 ) Use a small spoon to fill each shell with the cheese mixture. Divided evenly, the filling should be enough for 18-20 shells.

Ricotta stuffed shells in a baking dish

Next, bake. Spread 2 cups of marinara sauce at the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Nestle in the shells, cover the dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes at 425°F.

Alternatively, if you want to make this recipe ahead of time, you can place the stuffed shells in the baking dish, cover it with foil, and place it in the fridge for up to 4 hours. When you’re ready to eat, just bake the shells and serve. For freezing instructions, see the notes in the recipe.

Overhead close-up shot of ricotta stuffed shells with marinara sauce

So creamy!

Stuffed shells in baking dish with metal serving spoon

Stuffed Shells Serving Suggestions

Before serving, garnish the stuffed shells with more pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Serve them with extra marinara on the side. I like to spoon it over the shells as I eat so that I can get plenty of sauce in every bite.

Round out the meal with a green salad and good bread. I often serve these stuffed shells with my Homemade Caesar Salad, but my Arugula Salad, Beet Salad, or Simple Green Salad would also pair well with this recipe. And when it comes to bread, you really can’t go wrong! Stick with a crusty loaf, or make rosemary focaccia, garlic knots, or dinner rolls.

Enjoy!

Stuffed shells recipe

More Favorite Pasta Recipes

If you love this stuffed shells recipe, try one of these comforting pastas next:

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Stuffed Shells

rate this recipe:
4.98 from 139 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4
These spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are such a comforting, flavorful dinner! To get ahead, you can stuff the shells and place them in the baking dish with the marinara up to 4 hours in advance. Cover with foil and store them in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Then, just bake and eat!

Ingredients

  • 18 to 20 jumbo pasta shells
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 5 ounces spinach
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, more for sprinkling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, more for the pasta water
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce*, plus more for serving
  • chopped parsley, for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Place the spinach in a steamer basket and set over a pot with 1-inch of water. Bring the water to a simmer, cover, and let steam for 1 minute, until the spinach is wilted. Transfer to a strainer and squeeze out the excess water and chop the spinach.
  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta shells for 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and drizzle with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the spinach with the ricotta, pecorino, garlic, oregano, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
  • Spread the marinara in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff each shell with the filling and place in the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with more marinara on the side.

Notes

*Our favorite store-bought marinara sauce is Rao's Marinara.
This recipe freezes well! After you've assembled the shells in the baking dish, cover with foil and freeze. To thaw, transfer the dish to the fridge about 10 hours before you plan to serve (i.e. the morning that you plan to serve them for dinner). Remove from the fridge and let sit at room temp while the oven preheats. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, or until thawed and warmed through.

98 comments

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  1. Laurie Hohisel
    04.16.2024

    5 stars
    Thank you for the delicious recipe! The shells were a fun change from lasagna or spaghetti.
    This recipe is great since it’s so versatile.
    I had some burger to use so I sautéed onion and garlic with Montreal seasoning.
    Also I used 4% milk fat cottage cheese since I’m not a fan of ricotta and added ingredients as indicated plus an egg.
    Then I stuffed the shells with a small spoon of meat, cheese mixture then sprinkled with fresh mozz and colby Jack cheese.
    I agree with everyone the lemon was a delicious addition.
    You can do some with me and some without meat. Or use half ricotta and half cottage cheese in the mixture, whatever you like. So many variations to try. This made so much for the two of us that I froze 2 9×9 pans to have another time,
    Thanks again. 🙂

  2. Connie Roberts
    04.10.2024

    My husband does not like Ricotta cheese. What could I use as a substitute

    • Laurie Hohisel
      04.15.2024

      Me neither, I’m going to use 4% fat cottage cheese. That’s what I use for lasagna, it should work,

  3. catweave
    04.02.2024

    5 stars
    Fantastic!
    I think the lemon was my favorite part!
    I added chopped mushrooms to the filling. I chopped them and did a quick saute to release their water. then added chopped spinach to quickly cook.
    Yum!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      04.05.2024

      Hi, I’m so glad you loved the recipe! Great idea to add mushrooms.

  4. christine travers
    03.23.2024

    5 stars
    Made exactly as recipie stated and came out delicious

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.25.2024

      I’m so glad it was a hit!

  5. Angie
    03.09.2024

    5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious! I tried to make fresh mozzarella earlier in the day but it turned into ricotta, lol, so I searched the web on how to use a pound of ricotta and settled on your recipe. I only used about 2 ounces of spinach because 5 ounces sounded like a lot, but the recipe really does need 5 ounces. The lemon zest was a nice touch. I recommend cooking a few more shells than you need, in case any break or fall apart, or if you end up with extra ricotta. I also added about a cup of fresh shredded mozzarella broiled over the top. My entire family loved it, including my adult daughter who turns up her nose to any cooked veggies. She willingly ate more as leftovers for the next night!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.11.2024

      Hi Angie, I’m so glad you loved them! Ha, we had ricotta when we attempted fresh mozzarella too 🙂

  6. Carol
    03.02.2024

    Can an egg be added to the ricotta stuffing?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.08.2024

      Hi Carol, we’ve never tested this, but other readers have done it successfully!

  7. Diane
    02.29.2024

    Can I add mozzarella on top and put in oven?

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.01.2024

      Hi Diane, yep! You can.

  8. Shelly
    02.20.2024

    5 stars
    Delicious and gorgeous!
    Used 3 c homemade spaghetti sauce with meat ~ was in freezer for a quick meal later.
    Diced about 1/4 onion, sautéed then added spinach until wilted and then added the two garlic cloves for 1 minute. Added fresh thyme leaves to mix. Made filling otherwise as instructed except only grated 1 additional garlic clove (we love garlic!).
    Used small cookie scooper to fill shells ~ game changer! So easy!
    Cooked for 30 min total. The robust sauce against the delicate creamy lemon filling is, well, very special.

  9. JT
    01.18.2024

    Was going to make but couldn’t find any of the nutritional info :/

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.19.2024

      Hi JT, unfortunately we don’t calculate nutrition facts for our recipes. The best way to get an estimate is to use an online nutrition calculator like MyFitnessPal. Hope this helps!

  10. Erin
    01.17.2024

    5 stars
    These turned out delicious! I loved the lemon zest and the grated garlic. I broiled them for several minutes at the end to get more brown on top and cook them a bit more through.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.17.2024

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  11. Jess M.
    01.02.2024

    3 stars
    Pretty good. I followed the recipe, but added more ricotta since I had more than 20 shells to fill. The major issue is the garlic. I grated 2 cloves and mixed in w/the filling, but the dish isn’t in the oven long enough to “cook” (it just heats through), so there is a strong, raw garlic taste, even though I added more ricotta. I thought about sautéing the garlic before adding to the filling and wish I had cuz now my kid won’t eat them and I have bad garlic breath! With that change, the dish could be a winner.

    • Kayla
      02.03.2024

      4 stars
      This was my exact complaint. I LOVE garlic, but that super raw garlic flavor is all I tasted Kinda sad about that. Because otherwise would have been great.

    • Nina
      02.15.2024

      Thanks for the heads up! Will sauté some garlic first.

  12. Francesca
    12.23.2023

    What a beautiful site! Love the photos and layout. I plan on making this for my son when he comes to visit next week.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.24.2023

      I hope you enjoy them!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.