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:

Stuffed Shells

rate this recipe:
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
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.

35 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Emily
    11.30.2022

    5 stars
    This recipe was very good and very easy to make. Thank you!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      12.02.2022

      Hi Emily, so glad you loved it!

  2. Kayla
    11.17.2022

    5 stars
    Really good! I’ve made it twice. The lemon zest is a nice touch. Proportions were perfect.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      11.18.2022

      Hi Kayla, So glad you love the recipe!

  3. Elaine
    10.30.2022

    After making this recipe a couple of times, I finally added an egg to the cheese mixture and it was SO much better. If you follow the recipe, the cheese is too runny.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.01.2022

      oh that’s interesting, I’ve never had that result, can you tell me what brand of ricotta you use?

      • Elaine
        11.01.2022

        Whole Milk Galbani Ricotta

        • Phoebe Moore
          11.04.2022

          Interesting! Different ricottas can really vary in consistency. We love this recipe with 365 ricotta and Bel Gioioso.

  4. Alyssa
    10.20.2022

    5 stars
    Amazing!! I expected it to be good, but not “melt in your mouth, no leftovers, wishing I made a double batch” good. I made 26 shells and there was EXACTLY the right amount of filling for it. I had to use a rubber spatula to scrape, but it was perfect. I made the filling on Monday, stuffed/assembled on Tuesday, and baked it last night. I undercooked the shells by a min so they didn’t get too soggy sitting in the sauce overnight. It was perfect. Will absolutely be making again!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.21.2022

      Hi Alyssa, I’m so glad you loved it so much! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Molly
    10.10.2022

    5 stars
    This recipe opened up my eyes and tummy to the magical powers of lemon zest!!! So many times I’ve skipped zest in recipes for some reason I had some sort of zest phobia thinking it would overpower the other flavors or be extremely bitter but I followed this recipe exactly and now I am obsessed!!! It’s my sweet not so secret ingredient haha thanks for all the wonderful recipes and I do apologize for the dramatics 😀

  6. Nicole
    09.20.2022

    How far in advance can I make these? I have a dinner starting at 6:30 but work until 5:30. Do I have any options? Thanks!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.21.2022

      Hi Nicole, these notes are up in the post, there are some freezing instructions in the recipe notes too:

      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.

  7. Sara
    08.28.2022

    This recipe is incredible! The cheese mixture with lemon zest really adds a depth of flavor that isn’t normally found in this dish.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.29.2022

      I’m so glad you loved it! I’m a big fan of the bright flavor from the lemon zest!

  8. Rena
    07.27.2022

    I love your version! This gave me fond memories of when my mom used to make stuffed jumbo shells. I like the lemon zest which gave it a kick. My husband loved them so much thank you!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      07.28.2022

      I’m so glad you both loved them!

  9. Silke F.
    06.14.2022

    5 stars
    That was amazing. The filling was so creamy, and the lemon zest gave it a fresh note .My daughter said, it is delicious but she didn’t need the tomato sauce. Can I just make them without the sauce or will the pasta get dry or burnt?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.18.2022

      Hi Sikle, I’m so glad you loved them. Yes, without a sauce, I think the pasta would be too dry.

  10. Elaine
    06.11.2022

    5 stars
    Luv!Luv!
    Absolutely delicious. Can these be frozen after baking?
    Thanks

  11. Kelly
    03.30.2022

    5 stars
    These were incredible and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow! Used Rao’s homemade because it’s the best! These are definitely going into the rotation

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.02.2022

      I’m so glad you loved them!

  12. Angela
    02.27.2022

    5 stars
    Made this last night and even my picky toddler loved it. Glad I put the lemon zest in because I was going to skip it – really brought the flavors together. Delicious, flavorful meal.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.27.2022

      Hi Angela, I’m so glad you loved it and the lemon zest!

  13. Danielle
    02.24.2022

    The perfect comfort food. Something about those cute shells too, makes it all worth the effort!

  14. Marsha
    02.17.2022

    5 stars
    The stuffed shells were delicious and fresh tasting.

  15. Carol Hutchison
    02.15.2022

    I’m retired so I make these and freeze for when my family comes over.

  16. Jenna
    01.13.2022

    5 stars
    A delicious recipe for a weeknight meal. I even had my 4 year old help me fill the shells. I particularly enjoyed the lemon zest in the filling- it really came through.

  17. susan wright
    12.18.2021

    I was curious about a vegan version?
    I have used Miyokos mozzarella, but would love some tips. Thank you

  18. Pam S.
    12.18.2021

    Is anyone else having trouble finding these jumbo pasta shells in their local supermarkets?

    • Melanie
      12.18.2021

      Yes, had to go to 3 stores!

    • Jessica
      01.15.2022

      Yes! Supply chain??

    • Elaine from Www.peasepodbooks.com
      01.21.2022

      Yes so I used Conchiglioni shells

  19. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    12.13.2021

    love these always! And with lemon zest too, ha, and something to look forward to on my carb allowed Saturdays, thank you

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.