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:
4.96 from 151 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 fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, 16 ounces
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for the pasta water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce*, plus more for serving
  • Chopped fresh 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.

122 comments

4.96 from 151 votes (115 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Jenny
    07.17.2024

    5 stars
    The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute Swiss chard for spinach, just because I have so much in my. garden right now. It was delicious!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.18.2024

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Kathy Howard
    07.17.2024

    Question before I make this….can frozen chopped spinach (well drained) be substituted for fresh? Thanks in advance…Kathy

  3. missy
    06.25.2024

    5 stars
    Made this recipe and it is absolutely delicious! Loved the hint of lemon in the cheese mixture. I used cottage cheese in lieu of ricotta and added a generous amount of finely chopped (uncooked) spinach and basil in the cheese mixture and an egg to bind it. Lightly drizzled some roasted garlic olive oil over the shells prior to baking for taste. They turned out perfect and my husband and I were very happy! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.26.2024

      Hi Missy, I’m glad it came out well with cottage cheese!

  4. Helen Brown
    06.25.2024

    Love love your recipes

  5. Bee
    06.24.2024

    New family favorite for sure!! I did add Italian sausage to the ricotta mixture, but my daughter prefers it without. Both ways are amazing

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.25.2024

      I’m so glad it was a hit!

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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.