Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells also known in Italian as Conchiglioni ripiene are like miniature ricotta cheese manicotti. And while I like to pre-cook the shells, it's really not necessary if you use a lot of liquid in your baking dish!
- Why You'll Love this Dish
- Ingredients You'll Need to make Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta
- How to Make Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Meal Prep Tips
- Possible Variations and Substitutions
- Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
- Other Pasta Dishes You'll Love
- Recipe Details
- PIN it for later here
- Food Safety
Why You'll Love this Dish
Jumbo pasta shells filled with ricotta and spinach will win you over for these reasons:
- Irresistible Creaminess: The creamy ricotta cheese blended with the earthy flavors of spinach creates a luscious filling that melts in your mouth with each bite.
- Flavorful and Nutritious: Spinach adds a burst of vibrant green color and brings a wealth of nutrients to the dish, making it a healthier choice that doesn't compromise on taste.
- Versatile and Customizable: You can easily personalize the recipe by adding your favorite herbs, spices, or even additional ingredients like mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes to enhance the flavors to your liking.
- Family-Friendly and Crowd-Pleasing: These stuffed pasta shells are a hit with both kids and adults, making them a fantastic option for family gatherings or potluck dinners where everyone can enjoy the delicious combination of flavors.
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Ingredients You'll Need to make Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta
You will need the following ingredients to make spinach and ricotta stuffed shells: Olive oil, garlic, tomato puree, tomato paste, basil, ricotta, spinach, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, eggs and seasonings.
Ricotta a mild unripened cheese that is perfect for combining with other ingredients because it's not so overpowering in flavor.
Spinach perfect for adding a little bit of protein and hidden veggies to any meal. The mild taste also makes it perfect for blending with other ingredients.
Parmesan Cheese adds a nice salty punch to any meal or mixture and is perfect for this dish. You can also use other hard cheeses like Romano cheese and top them off with mozzarella!
Seasoning like basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper are needed, sometimes in moderation because of other ingredients that are salty or bring flavor to the dish.
Tomato puree is perfect for making your sauce because the tomatoes are peeled, cooked and already strained for you. You can also use fresh tomatoes if you don't mind the tomato peel or seeds in your tomato sauce.
See recipe card for full list of ingredients and quantities.
How to Make Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
Start off by making your sauce. Prepare your baking dish by greasing it with olive oil. Add a cup of pasta water and ½ cup of sauce to the water. Reserve the rest of the sauce to pour over the pasta shells at the end.
Combine all ingredients for cheese filling in a bowl and mix well.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Using a spoon, place cheese filling in each pasta shell taking care not to rip them.
Place the pasta shells in the baking dish, filled side up. Repeat until all the shells or filling is used.
Pour the reserved tomato sauce over the shells. Optional: top with mozzarella or cheese.
Cover with foil and place in oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Meal Prep Tips
Pre-cook your pasta shells until they are 70% done. They will finish cooking in the oven.
Ensure that there is sufficient sauce/liquid to cook the pasta shells. The shells should almost be submerged in the sauce. Without sufficient liquid they will dry out.
To make the stuffing process easier, use a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off to fill the pasta shells with the ricotta and spinach mixture. This allows for more precise and efficient filling, ensuring each shell is evenly stuffed. It also helps prevent mess and saves you time during the preparation process.
Possible Variations and Substitutions
Here are some possible substitutions for the spinach and ricotta filling:
- Cheese - Instead of ricotta cheese, you can use cottage cheese or goat cheese for a different flavor profile.
- Leafy Greens - If spinach is not your preference, you can substitute it with other leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard.
- Vegan - For a vegan alternative, you can use tofu or cashew-based ricotta cheese.
Here are some possible variations of the spinach and ricotta filling for the conchiglioni (stuffed pasta shells):
- Meaty Twist: Add cooked ground beef, sausage, or diced cooked chicken to the ricotta and spinach filling for a heartier and more protein-packed option.
- Mediterranean Flavor: Incorporate flavors from the Mediterranean by adding sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese to the filling mixture.
- Creamy Mushroom Delight: Sauté some mushrooms and garlic, then mix them into the ricotta cheese and spinach filling for an earthy and rich variation.
- Spicy Kick: Add chopped jalapeños or red pepper flakes to the filling for a spicy twist that adds a fiery kick to each bite.
These substitutions and variations provide a range of options to customize the ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta shells according to your taste preferences and dietary needs. Let your culinary creativity shine and enjoy a burst of flavors in every bite.
A glass baking dish or an aluminum roasting pan probably works best for baking these stuffed pasta shells.
Any leftovers should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for not more than 3-4 days.
Reheat leftovers in the microwave.
You can also freeze excess leftovers. Thaw out in the refrigerator overnight and warm in the oven for best results.
Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Serve spinach and ricotta stuffed shells with garlic sticks and a leafy green salad.
You can use a couple of tablespoons of breadcrumbs to thicken and bind the cheese filling.
They are the same in the way that the filling, they way they are cooked and stuffed. They are also covered with sauce whether it's tomato, bechamel or a rose sauce. Although manicotti are tubes of pasta or lasagna sheets rolled up whereas shells look like sea shells.
Often, stuffed pasta shells are referred to as conchiglioni meaning jumbo shells which are usually stuffed with a ricotta filling and topped with a tangy marinara sauce.
Other Pasta Dishes You'll Love
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
Spinach and Cheese Filling
- 200 g Jumbo Pasta Shells
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp Olive oil for bottom of baking dish
- 1 cup Pasta Water reserved
Sauce and Pasta Shells
- In a medium saucepan heat oil and sauté garlic until fragrent.
- Add the tomato puree and bring to a boil. Add seasoning and basil leaves.
- Lower the temperature and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
- While sauce is cooking fill a large pot with about 3L of water and bring to boil (to cook pasta shells).
- Remove pasta shells with a spider spoon when approximately 70 percent cooked and place in a bowl. The pasta shells will continue to cook in the oven once stuffed. Reserve the pasta water.
- Prepare your baking dish by greasing it with olive oil. Add a cup of pasta water and ½ cup of sauce to the water. Reserve the rest of the sauce to pour over the pasta shells at the end.
- Combine all ingredients for cheese filling in a bowl and mix well.
Stuffing the Pasta Shells
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Using a spoon, place cheese filling in each pasta shell taking care not to rip them.
- Place the pasta shells in the baking dish, filled side up. Repeat until all the shells or filling is used.
- Pour the reserved tomato sauce over the shells. Optional: top with mozzarella or cheese.
- Ensure that there is sufficient sauce/liquid to cook the pasta shells. The shells should almost be submerged in the sauce. Without sufficient liquid they will dry out.
- Cover with foil and place in oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Check at 30 minutes and add more water if necessary to avoid pasta shells from sticking to bottom of pan and burning.
- You will know that they are done when the liquid in the dish is boiling rapidly or steam is coming out of the dish.
- Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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Note that the storage guidelines provided on this page and site are estimates from personal experiences. We are all adults and as an adult you are responsible to ensure that the food you eat is safe to eat. Since, I'm not a food safety expert, you are responsible to review your local guidelines on food storage prior to storing any food left-overs.
- Not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove