Easy Stuffed Shells Recipe with Spinach and sausage is a delicious dinner meal for the whole family. This recipe combines ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, and spinach, if you like, stuffed into pasta shells. A spicy layer of hot or mild Italian sausage completes the meal. A family favorite Italian dinner!
I am popping in to share this stuffed shells 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. I even grate my own Parmesan. It is much cheaper that way too! 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.
So, of course, delectable cheese combinations find their way into my family’s dinner as well. Cheese and Italian stuffed shells are the perfect combination. It’s delicious! One of my family’s favorite suppers is my Ricotta Stuffed Shells with meat. Now I may be a cheese-head, but this dish really does need something more than just the ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan base. I add spinach which also makes me feel good as a mom. I tell people, “Yes, my son eats spinach, no problem!” (We can keep the cheese part just between us.)
Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe Notes
First, let’s talk about garlic. Garlic is synonymous with Italian cooking and yet I am not that big a garlic fan. I mean I like it, but I want it to enhance a meal, not wince at the garlic flavor. Ok, now forget everything I said and add a TON of garlic to this dish. Over the years, I have found that the cheese filling really mellows the garlic flavor with baked 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!
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.
Check out our video to see all this goodness come together!
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 stuffed shells after you stuff them, but 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 pefer 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.
Recommended Tools for This Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 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. You can find it in most grocery stores, so this is just a reference.
- 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!)
What's For Dinner?
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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 spaghetti 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. In the same saucepan, cook spinach until wilted or about 1-2 minutes. 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 entire 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.
- 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.