These easy classic Italian Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells make a great lighten-up vegetarian pasta bake the whole family will love.
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells are such a classic Italian dish!
This hearty dish is ideal for big family gatherings -which Italians are famous for, so it’s traditionally made for Sunday lunch/dinner and over the festivities.
If you ask me, these lighten-up vegetarian stuffed pasta shells make just the health-ish comfort food.
It’s still a bit cold outside, so if you’re looking for something warm and comforting but on the health-ish side, this awesome pasta definitely fits the bill.
These Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells have all it takes to become a family favourite.
They’re easy and quick enough to make for a weeknight dinner, but also pretty enough to serve at dinner parties and get-togethers.
Stuffed pasta Shells Ingredients
This hearty and comforting baked pasta dish comes together in about 30 minutes and without much fuss.
All you need is pretty simple Italian staple ingredients:
- homemade tomato sauce
- good-quality pasta shells
- Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian-friendly alternative)
- fresh ricotta
- sauteed fresh spinach leaves (frozen spinach are OK too!)
It’s also a great make-ahead dish, simply prepare the filling and stuff the shells in advance.
Keep them covered in the refrigerator, then pop them in the oven just before dinner.
For the sauce, I always use my homemade Italian Tomato Sauce. It’s one of the go-to recipes that I cook on a weekly basis.
I usually make a big batch on the weekend and stock up the fridge and freezer for whenever I need tomato sauce. A real time-saver if you eat Italian as much as we do!
For the ricotta, whenever I have time, I make my own ricotta, and it tastes incredible! Otherwise, pop in an Italian deli and get fresh ricotta, it tastes way better than the small boxes you find at the supermarket.
Once you’re good with the sauce, get your pasta shells ready.
The quality of the pasta is critical here. To get the best texture I recommend going the bronze-cut route, it may cost a little more but this kind of pasta keeps beautifully al dente, even baked.
Poor quality pasta can literally fall apart and turn all mushy in a matter of minutes.
Boil your extra-large pasta shells until al dente, then drain and fill with a creamy sauteed spinach & ricotta mixture.
My trick for filling the shells? A simple piping bag ( if you don’t have any at home, just make your own). It makes the filling process much more efficient, and less messy.
Arrange the shells over a bed of scrumptious homemade tomato sauce, and bake until the sauce is nicely bubbly and the pasta is cooked through about 20 minutes.
At the very end, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and broil just until the cheese makes a mouthwatering crispy and gooey crust over your stuffed pasta shells.
The result is a healthy and hearty vegetarian baked pasta dish.
Creamy, cheesy, fresh, and crunchy, this vegetarian Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells are sure to get fantastic reviews from your family and friends.
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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 25 large pasta shells
- 400 gr homemade tomato sauce
- 100 gr Parmesan cheese (or vegetarian-friendly alternative) freshly grated
- extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
For the filling:
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 100 gr fresh spinach leaves
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 400 gr fresh ricotta cheese drained
- handful of basil leaves chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F, and arrange a baking tray into the middle shelf.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry on kitchen paper.
- Meanwhile prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add chopped garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about a minute or two. Add the spinach and cover with a lid. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then season with nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool, then transfer the sauteed spinach leaves on a chopping board and finely chop them.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, basil and salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Transfer into a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil the bottom of a shallow large oven-proof casserole dish and spread the tomato sauce all over the base.
- Stuff each pasta shell generously with the spinach and ricotta mixture, and place in the baking dish. Feel free to pour any remaining tomato sauce over the top of the shells. Drizzle with a little olive oil over the top.
- Bake covered with aluminium foil for 2 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese is gooey and lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
This recipe makes enough to feed 5 people or 4 hungry ones.
I use a large cast-iron casserole pan, but 1 large or 2 medium casserole dishes work just as fine.