Recipes, Main Dishes

Classic Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells Are the Perfect Holiday Pasta Dish

My Christmases with my Dad’s Italian side of the family are a food extravaganza where there are leftovers for each family member to last at least a week. I’ve been eating stuffed shells for the holidays for as long as I can remember, but my mom is actually the one who makes them most often these days. I believe she got the recipe from my dad’s mom, because who else would you ask for a stuffed shells recipe other than an Italian grandma?    

I’m a big fan of changing things up for Christmas, because it seems like for so long that we were just eating turkey year after year. There is nothing wrong with turkey, except for the fact that I just ate it a month earlier for Thanksgiving. 

This year I’ve decided to pull out the old recipe book and make some stuffed shells for the family. I made a few changes to the original just because I want it to be mine, and because well I’m not much of a fan of frozen cream of spinach (no offense, Mom & Grandma!). Regardless of the changes, this is still an incredibly easy recipe to make and is always delicious.

Any pasta starts with a good sauce, so I made a very simple marinara consisting of only olive oil, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and salt & pepper. I like simple sauces where ingredients taste as they should so this sauce was perfect for me. However, I want you to know that you can absolutely use your family’s spaghetti sauce or any other red sauce that you love, heck maybe it’s even a Puttanesca. 

Stuffed Shells 5

Once the sauce is cooked, I simply let it stew over low heat until it’s time to pour it in the bottom of the casserole dish. In the meantime, you want to make your stuffing for the par-boiled shells. Since I love changing up recipes, I want to encourage you to add in or take out anything at this stage. Maybe you like fontina cheese instead of mozzarella, or perhaps you like kale instead of spinach, or maybe you want to use vegan ricotta (do they make that?)... it doesn’t matter because I want you to be able to tailor this recipe to your liking.

Stuffed Shells 2

Stuff up the shells, place them in the sauce and bake away. If you are one of those people who like really crispy lasagna, then I totally suggest taking the foil off and baking it for another 15 minutes and you’ll get the shell noodles really crispy on the edges. It's totally up to you! Happy cooking everyone!

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe

theinspiredhome.com
SERVINGS

16 stuffed shells

PREP TIME

20 minutes

ACTIVE TIME

60-70 minutes

INGREDIENTS

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 finely minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

For the Shells:

  • 1 cup of packed roughly chopped baby spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 16 ounces of whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons of chiffonade fresh basil + more for garnish
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 16 par-boiled jumbo shell pasta
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Sauce: Add olive oil to a medium size sauce pot and cook the garlic for 3 to 4 minutes over low heat. 
  3. Next, add in the tomatoes and stew over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
  4. Shells: In a large bowl mix together the spinach, eggs, ricotta, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of fresh chiffonade basil, mozzarella cheese, and salt and pepper until combined.
  5. Evenly divide the stuffing into the 16 par-boiled shells.  Note: they should be stuffed full.
  6. Add the sauce to the bottom of a 13x9 casserole dish and place the shells right into the sauce lined up in rows of 4.
  7. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese, cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven, discard foil and garnish with basil. 
  9. Serve hot!

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