Easy Stuffed Shells

This stuffed shells recipe is easy and a crowd pleaser! The ricotta stuffed pasta shells swimming in tomato sauce are a hit every time.

Here’s a recipe that’s simple, hearty and pleases a crowd: this easy Stuffed Shells recipe! Stuff pasta shells with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and spinach, then bake them up in a bath of garlicky tomato sauce. It makes your kitchen smell heavenly, and the first bite into one of those jumbo shells confirms it’s just as tasty as the smell. This Italian classic recipe is a favorite of ours: here’s how to bake up this easy dinner idea. (Even our spinach-averse kiddo was a fan!)

Ingredients in this stuffed shells recipe

You can make stuffed pasta shells with just about any type of filling. Here we’ve opted for a spinach ricotta stuffing, which is both classic and vegetarian. But don’t worry: meat lovers won’t miss the meat at all! Our friends and family can attest that this one is a winner. Here’s what you’ll need for this stuffed shells recipe:

Jumbo pasta shellsFire roasted crushed tomatoes (or substitute purchased marinara sauce)GarlicOlive oilDried oregano and saltFrozen spinachRicotta cheeseParmesan cheeseWhole milk mozzarella cheeseLemon zestEggParsley, for garnish

Ingredient notes for stuffed shells

As with any Italian dish, this stuffed shells recipe depends on the quality of ingredients for a great result. Above all, we suggest making your own tomato sauce with fire roasted tomatoes. While you can use purchased marinara, a homemade tomato sauce heightens the flavors! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Use fire roasted tomatoes in the tomato sauce. Fire roasted tomatoes make the best flavor: they taste sweet and smoky right out of the can. If you can’t find them, substitute best quality tomatoes and add 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon smoked paprika. If you choose to use purchased marinara, add the garlic and oregano in the recipe. This helps to infuse homemade flavor into the purchased sauce. Whole milk mozzarella cheese makes a difference. This type of cheese melts much better than part skim and has a richer flavor (try it: you’ll notice a difference!). It also melts better when reheating.

Working with frozen spinach

Frozen spinach is the best ingredient to use in these stuffed shells: not fresh spinach! Of course if you like, you can cook down 10 ounces of fresh spinach until it is wilted very small. But frozen spinach really does have an advantage: it has just the right texture for using in filled pastas once it’s defrosted. Here are a few tips on using frozen spinach:

Defrost under warm running water or in the microwave. If you’re using warm water, each brand of spinach takes a different amount of time to thaw. Some brands thaw in a few minutes, others take a while of breaking apart the frozen chunks. The microwave can be quicker and easier. Important: squeeze out all extra moisture with your fingers. If you’d like, you can place the spinach in a paper towel to do this. Or, just squeeze out the moisture over the sink before using it. It should feel very dry and crumbly before using it.

Leftover storage and make ahead tips

This stuffed shells recipe takes about 1 hour to make, which doesn’t always work for weeknights. We like to make this one for dinner parties or on weekends, but you can also meal prep some of the components. This recipe also freezes well, which makes it great for a quick leftover dinner. Here are a few ideas for make ahead and storage:

Cook the pasta shells and make the tomato sauce in advance. This saves about 20 minutes off the timing of the recipe. Refrigerate both until ready to fill. Leftovers store refrigerated for up to 3 days. You can make the entire dish in advance and refrigerate if you like. Leftovers tastes great after re-warming in a 375 degree oven. Using whole milk mozzarella cheese is nice because it re-melts nicely when left over. Freeze leftovers in a sealed container for up to 3 months. Place on the counter or in the refrigerator to thaw, or you can place it right into a 375 degree oven and reheat until warmed through and the cheese is melted.

What to serve with stuffed shells

How to make these stuffed shells into a meal? Use the 30 minute bake time to prepare some simple side dishes. We love it with a crunchy salad or quick sauteed vegetables. Here are a few ideas:

Mix up simple Watercress Salad with Apple & Parmesan or Arugula SaladTry Grapefruit Salad with Almonds, Endive Salad with Parmesan & Orange or Fennel Orange SaladGo for Kale Caesar Salad or Perfect Italian SaladMix up Sauteed Broccolini or Lemony Sauteed Green Beans

More Italian pasta recipes

Love pasta dishes? Here are a few more classic Italian pasta recipes you’ll love:

Try the famous Roman cheese and pepper pasta, Cacio e PepeGo for classic Vegetarian Lasagna with RicottaThrow a pan of Baked Ziti in the ovenOpt for Pasta with Vodka Sauce


Cacio e Pepe


Vegetarian Lasagna with Ricotta


Baked Ziti


Pasta with Vodka Sauce

This stuffed shells recipe is…



Easy Stuffed Shells

Sonja Overhiser

Prep Time:
30 minutes

Cook Time:
30 minutes

Total Time:
1 hour



This stuffed shells recipe is easy and a crowd pleaser! The ricotta stuffed pasta shells swimming in tomato sauce are a hit every time.


24 jumbo pasta shells (6.5 ounces)
28 ounces fire roasted crushed tomatoes*
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
10 ounces frozen spinach
15 ounces ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups whole milk mozzarella cheese, divided
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg
Chopped parsley or basil, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Boil the shells until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain them and return them to the pot. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce: In a medium bowl, mix the fire roasted tomatoes, grated garlic, olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well until all the olive oil is incorporated.
Make the filling: Thaw the spinach following the package instructions, then squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands (it should feel dry and crumbly before using it). Mix it with the other filling ingredients: the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, lemon zest, egg, 1 teaspoon oregano and ¾ teaspoon kosher salt.
Spread half the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Take the shells one at a time and stuff them with the cheese mixture. Top with more tomato sauce and then mozzarella cheese (we spread them in lines over the top of each row of shells, so you can still see the shell shapes).
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more until the cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped parsley or basil and serve. Leftovers last refrigerated for 4 days; reheat in a 375°F oven until warmed through. You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.


*If desired, you can use purchased marinara sauce instead of making your own. If so, still add the 1 clove grated garlic and 1 teaspoon dried oregano to enhance the flavor.

Category: Main dishMethod: BakedCuisine: ItalianDiet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Stuffed shells, stuffed shells recipe, stuffed shells recipe, stuffed pasta shells

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