If you love a cheesy pasta you should make this dish! This is an easy recipe for stuffed pasta shells filled with ricotta cheese (homemade or store bought), spinach and bottled pasta sauce.
I have used 500 grams of jumbo pasta shells for this recipe, and to be honest it’s too much for the average family, but is perfect for feeding a crowd.
However, don’t let the quantity of the dish stop you from making it, because you can stuff the shells all at one time and cook some to eat now, and freeze the remaining shells for a quick and easy meal on another day.
How to Make These Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ricotta Cheese and Spinach
It’s as easy as:-
- Cook pasta shells until al dente drain and allow to cool.
- Combine thawed, drained frozen spinach leaves with a mixture of four cheeses and seasoning.
- Spoon filling to the pasta shells.
- Place into baking tray with pasta sauce.
- Bake covered for 20 minutes.
- Add cheese topping and bake uncovered until cheese becomes golden.
1. Cooking The Pasta Shells
These jumbo shells need to be cooked first before filling, this will decrease the cooking time in the oven. If the pasta is not cooked before going into the oven you will be waiting ages for the pasta to completely cook through.
The shells should be cooked until almost done, about 1 -2 minutes short of the cooking time recommended on the packet, drained and then placed in a single layer on a tray to cool before use. If you are in a hurry, you can rinse the hot pasta under cold water to cool quickly and drain well before stuffing.
2. Making The Cheesy Spinach Filling
Spinach and ricotta cheese are the two main ingredients in this classic stuffed shells recipe. The ricotta cheese is homemade and very quick to make although, store bought ricotta can also be used.
If you have never made ricotta cheese before, I highly recommend that you try it at least once, it tastes so good. Here’s my recipe for ricotta cheese.
If you are making the ricotta for this recipe, make two batches, as one batch makes about 350 grams and you will need 450 grams of ricotta.
With the spinach I have chosen to use frozen however, you can use fresh spinach, but will need to cook the spinach it until it wilts then allow it to cool, squeeze it dry and chop it finely before using.
How to Drain Frozen Spinach:
- Place the thawed spinach into the centre of a muslin cloth or clean tea towel (use an old tea towel as the spinach does stain),
- Do the following over a sink. In one hand gather the corners of cloth together, and with the other, twist the spinach bundle tighter and tighter until liquid comes out. Keep twisting until it is almost dry.
Once you have drained the spinach, place it into a large mixing bowl along with all the other filling ingredients and mix well. The best way to mix everything together is with a clean hand or if you have a stand mixer you can use that with the paddle beater attachment.
3. Filling The Shells
I find using a teaspoon to fill the shells is best, with a larger spoon I tend to overstuff the shells and run out of filling toward the end. If this happens just remove a little filling from each of the filled shells and divide it amongst the remaining unfilled shells. Another option is to place the filling into a piping bag and pipe the fill into the shells.
4. To Bake
Spread about 4-5 tablespoons of the pasta sauce over the base of the baking dish, then arrange the filled shells in a single layer, with filling side up. Next, evenly spread the remaining pasta sauce over the shells, cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, this will steam the pasta making it softer.
After the 20 minutes, remove the foil and add the cheese, return to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and becomes golden.
More Delicious Pasta Recipes
How long can you keep stuffed shells in the fridge?
The stuffed filled shells without the pasta sauce can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze stuffed pasta shells before baking?
Yes, the stuffed pasta shells can be frozen before baking (I prefer to freeze them without the tomato sauce). Place the filled shells in a single layer on a baking tray in the freezer, once frozen transfer to a zip lock bag. To cook, allow the frozen filled shells to thaw before placing into the baking tray with the sauce and cheese.
Stuffed Shells With Spinach and Cheese Filling
- 500 grams conchiglioni jumbo pasta shells
- 500 grams frozen spinach thawed and place in a cloth to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can
- 450 grams ricotta cheese homemade or store bought
- 390 grams cottage cheese
- 120 grams mozzarella cheese grated
- 125 grams parmesan cheese grated
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Pepper freshly ground to taste optional
Sauce and topping
- The quantity listed below is for half a batch (about 34) filled pasta shells
- 750 grams readymade tomato pasta sauce
- 125 grams mozzarella cheese grated
Preheat oven to 180°C
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes or until they are almost cooked. The pasta should be al dente (frim to the bite) and not too soft. If overcooked the pasta will be too soft and can break when adding the stuffing. Drain and allow to cool in a single layer on a baking tray.
- While the pasta is cooling.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the thawed and squeezed out spinach leaves, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, 120 grams mozzarella, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper (if using) and mix well. Use either clean hands to mix the filling or, if you have a stand mixer use that with the paddle beater attached. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shell. It is very easy to overstuff the shells which will cause you to run out of filling, if this happens just remove a little filling from each of the filled shells and divide it amongst the remaining unfilled shells. <– The stuffed shells can be frozen at this stage, please refer to notes below.
- Spread about 3-4 tablespoons of pasta sauce over the base of a baking tray or large casserole dish, then place the filled pasta shells (filling side up) in a single layer into the dish.
- Evenly spoon over the remaining pasta sauce, cover with a lid or foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and take off the foil, top with the remaining mozzarella, return to the oven and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese browns.
- Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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Pocket Food Facts
Did You Know?
Spinach is low in calories, has a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and minerals, including iron. Read more here.