Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are an easy and flavorful dinner for any night of the week! The jumbo shells are stuffed with ricotta, parmesan, spinach, parsley, pine nuts, chili flakes, and sautéed onions and garlic — giving them SOoo much flavor! It’s comfort food at its best.
Which is exactly why I decided to start the year off with a comfort food recipe. Sometimes you just need some feel good food… and pasta dishes just seem to do the trick. The last year has been so incredibly busy juggling the demands of my day job and blogging so I have the feeling I want to take a quiet moment to enjoy a little comfort food and time in front of the fireplace with a glass of my favorite wine. 🙂
How to make spinach and ricotta stuffed shells
There are actually two ways of doing this. The first method being: cooking the shells until al dente before stuffing them with the spinach and ricotta filling, which I have to say is a little more fiddly since the shells are softer. And of course, you need a thicker tomato sauce, otherwise the already cooked pasta soaks up too much liquid. The second method is how I make them for this recipe. The shells are cooked for 5 minutes so that they are still firm (full cooking time is 16 minutes). Then they are stuffed with the filling and baked in a tomato sauce with vegetable broth. Adding the broth to the tomato sauce is what helps cook the noodles while at the same time giving them a little extra flavor boost. This is my preferred method.
Can these stuffed shells be made ahead of time?
I always prefer to make my meals fresh, but if you are squeezed for time and want to do your meal prep ahead of time, I would suggest making the filling ahead of time and then storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. You could even boil the shells, toss with a bit of olive oil before cooling, and then refrigerate them in a covered container too. Then all you have left to do is stuff them and prepare the tomato sauce, which takes all of 30 seconds.
Or you can prepare the filling AND stuff the shells in advance. Though, you’ll want to do so without adding any of the liquid to the baking dish. The pasta will soak it up! Store the stuffed shells covered in the refrigerator overnight and when ready, bring to room temperature, add the liquid and follow the baking instructions. Voila a no hassle dinner! But there are probably some even betters ways for prepping ahead. If you have any tips, let me know in the comments below!
I think this is a great dish to serve to guests too! So I hope you guys will LOVE this pasta! It makes such a great meal when you’re looking for something comforting and tasty. And…can we just talk about the leftovers? So delicious.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 32 jumbo pasta shells (Conchiglioni) (ca 250g)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 690 g glass organic tomato passata
- 125 ml vegetable broth
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 450 g frozen spinach (thawed or fresh spinach, hard stems removed)
- 2 x 250 g container ricotta cheese
- 40 g grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta shells in a large pot of salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C and lightly oil one shallow 4-liter oven-proof dish or two 2-liter dishes. (I used a 2-liter dish and a cast iron skillet)
For the filling: heat the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions and garlic until translucent and lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl.
If using frozen spinach, make sure it is completely thawed, then squeeze excess liquid from it.
If using fresh spinach, blanch or steam the spinach until wilted, drain. Rinse under cold water, drain and squeeze excess liquid from spinach. Chop finely.
Add the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, parsley, chili, and pine nuts to the bowl with the onion. Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
Spoon the spinach ricotta mixture into the pasta shells.
Combine the tomato paste, tomato sauce and broth together in a bowl (or jug) and pour into dishes. Place the pasta shells in the dishes, sprinkle with half the additional parmesan cheese.
Cover the dishes with foil (or ovenproof lid), transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Remove foil, bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for a few minutes, then top with remaining parmesan.
Serve and enjoy!
- I sometimes make this with a little mint in the filling. For fans of mint, add 1 tablespoon freshly chopped fresh mint along with the parsley.
- This dish also makes fabulous leftovers since the stuffed shells reheat well. I cover mine and reheat them in the oven. If you are worried about them drying out, then sprinkle with a tiny bit of water.
- The shells are cooked for 5 minutes so that they are still quite firm (full cooking time is 16 minutes for the pasta I use).
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This looks delicious, I’d love to try it! What is the use of covering it with foil before putting it in the oven?
Hi Hannah, the purpose of covering this dish with foil or lid for the first 30 minutes is so that the pasta can cook properly without drying out. Let me know how this turns out for you! By the way, if you like your pasta really saucy, then feel free to increase the amount of tomato passata. 🙂