This easy Italian sausage stuffed Shells Recipe with Spinach makes a delicious dinner for the whole family. This recipe combines ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, with spinach and Italian sausage. A family favorite Italian dinner!
I am popping in to share this stuffed shells with sausage recipe and my love of Italian food. We love great Italian pasta dishes like Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marsala Pasta, and Bruschetta Chicken Pasta. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am a major cheese head. Smoked Gouda, Swiss, Sharp Cheddar, you name it and I probably love it. This spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe is very cheesy with layers of ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and Parmesan. It’s baked to a golden finish and easy as a weeknight dinner.
- Marinara sauce – The main shortcut is using store-bought pasta sauce. Our two favorites to use in this recipe are Classico® Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce or a garden veggie heavy sauce that is a little sweeter like Ragu® Chunky Garden Combination. However, you can use any brand you like.
- Pre-shredded cheese – I’m usually all about shredding cheese off a block, but for this recipe, it works to use pre-shredded.
- Frozen Spinach – If you want to save time pulling the stems, you can use a package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.
We have a video below to see how this recipe is made!
Sausage Stuffed Shells Recipe Tips
The amount of garlic will vary a bit – First, 4 tsp of powdered garlic may seem like a lot. I am not a huge fan of garlic, but the cheese filling mellows the garlic flavor with sausage stuffed shells. What works is adding garlic into the cheese filling – one a teaspoon at a time – until you think you have put a little too much. Even at 4 tsp, I wince my eyes and think “Whew! Garlic!” (not in a good way) I’m telling you to go overboard! Be fearless! It will be amazing!
This recipe does make more than a 9×13 – I usually have a small 8×8 in addition. You can freeze this extra portion or bake separately for delicious leftovers.
Layering the Stuffed shells is fairly straight forward. Layering half the marinara in the baking dish first prevents the shells sticking. Then stuff the shells and layer the rest of the marinara, sausage and cheeses on top. After baking, feel free to spinkle some fresh herbs or parsley for color.
The second tip is that this stuffed shells recipe has always made more than a 9×13 standard baking dish size. This is not a mistake. I have had boxes of jumbo shells with ⅓ of them broken and useless. If I cannot fit all the shells, I just toss the additional ingredients in a separate baking dish. I have used up to a 5×9 pan. You could make a vegetarian variety this way or freeze for later.
Making stuffed shells without spinach is exactly the same recipe, so you can skip that if you prefer. I like to add a vegetable to the stuffed shells recipe. It helps the texture and Mushrooms or zucchini are other good options.
Can Stuffed Shells Be Frozen?
One of the most frequently asked questions about this stuffed shells with spinach recipe is whether the extra can be frozen for the future. I generally recommend freezing the extra sausage stuffed shells, just before baking. That way you can just pop it into the oven, although you will have to bake it for longer. I usually bake it covered for about 50-60 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is cooked through. I prefer my cheese bubbly and just starting to brown, so I broil it for a few minutes after that with the cover off.
In a well packed freezer, and airtight container, this recipe should last 3-4 months.
- Jumbo shell pasta: I am only linking to this because there are a few different types of shells. You want the biggest kind for this recipe.
- Jarred Pasta Sauce: Cuts down the prep time and this is my favorite store-bought sauce, but any marinara sauce will work.
- Heavy Bottom Baking Dish: This is my most used baking dish, keeps heat even and it has survived years of kitchen abuse.
I’m hungry now. It’s almost midnight here so I’m thinking cheese and crackers for a late night snack. Do you have a favorite cheesy dish? I would love to hear about it, and maybe even swap some cheese-head love! (Or is that too cheezy, HA!)
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Sausage Stuffed Shells with Spinach
- 1 package jumbo pasta shells 16oz
- 4 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
- 12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 Eggs lightly beaten
- 4 tsp garlic powder *see note
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¾ cup parmesan grated or shredded is fine
- 45 oz marinara or spagetti sauce large jar
- 4 cups spinach rough chopped and stems removed if you prefer
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- dried parsley for garnish
- ½ tsp pepper optional
- In a skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain any excess fat and remove from heat.
- Cook the shells according to package directions (I cook them until they are pliable for filling and no more).
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 8oz of mozzarella, ½ cup of parmesan, eggs, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper (optional). Stir in the spinach.
- Coat the bottom of a 9x13in pan with the ½ jar of spaghetti sauce. Spoon the cheese mixture into the shells and place shells open side up, very close together in the dish. There will be more shells than will fit into this pan and you can either make a second smaller pan (5×8 is good) or freeze for future use. Sometimes the shells also break in the box so this is fine.
- Add the rest of the marinara. Sprinkle the sausage over the top of the shells. Then sprinkle with the remaining 4oz of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. If you like a cheesy crust, you may broil it uncovered for 3-5 minutes (watch closely). Let stand 10 minutes before serving.