I feel pasta dishes in general offer incredible opportunities to be creative in the kitchen.  Of course there are traditional classics that need no modification, but when you want to be creative, pasta offers a great blank canvas. That is especially true with stuffed shells.  In this recipe video, I demonstrate a recipe for stuffed shells with spinach & cheese.  And while I wouldn’t call this the most “creative” dish I’ve ever made, I want you to pay attention to the technique.  Because it is very easy to swap out different sauces, and different stuffings to make this dish your own.

Recipe Overview and Keys to Success

This dish is comfort food first and foremost.  You want to make sure you get nice big bold flavors in the sauce and the stuffing, while allowing the pasta to be the element that carries everything together.  You can swap out different sauces, and filling, but I think you should always be aware of a few things:

  1. You need to watch the balance between pasta, stuffing and sauce. The three need to work together…not overpower one another.  Most people probably short change the sauce, which is why I put some on the bottom of the plan, and serve some extra on the side
  2. Don’t overcook the pasta.  I know it goes without saying, but I have to say it anyway.  Once al dente, shock the shells in cold water to stop the cooking process
  3. Once stuffed, the open side of the shell should face up. Otherwise that stuffing may just leak out everywhere
  4. Bake the shells on high heat.  Everything is cooked, so you don’t need to worry about doneness.  You want a nice golden top and a soft center – the key to that is an high oven temp.

Ingredients for Stuffed Shells with Spinach & Cheese (for four)

  • 1/2 lbs dry pasta shells (I do 7 – 8 shells per person)
  • 4 – 5 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups mozzarellacheese
  • 3 – 4 cups basic tomato sauce

Making the Stuffed Shells

  • Heat your tomato sauce until lightly simmering (get a recipe for tomato sauce here)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Sauté the spinach until wilted, remove from the pan and dry thoroughly with paper towels
  • Chop the cooked spinach
  • In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, basil, and half the parmesan cheese.  Mix until it all comes together
  • Cook the pasta shells in boiling, salted water until al dente
  • Drain the shells, and rinse under cold water until they are at room temperature to stop the cooking process and get them to a temp where you can handle them
  • Put about a ¼ inch layer of tomato sauce into an oven proof pan, or baking dish
  • Fill each pasta shell with about a tablespoon of filling, and place them into the baking dish on top of the sauce, seam side up; repeat until the dish is filled
  • Drizzle more tomato sauce over the top of the shells; and top with the remaining parmesan & mozzarella cheeses
  • Put the stuffed shells into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes; or until the cheese is melted and starts to turn golden brown
  • Remove from the oven, and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes to settle
  • I like to reserve a bit of my tomato sauce, and serve it on the side, allowing people to add a bit more to their shells

I love to make these stuffed shells with a bit of garlic bread and served with a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Hope you enjoy it, and leave me a comment to let me know how it goes.

Total Time: 
65minutes
Prep Time: 
20minutes
Cook Time: 
45minutes
Main Ingredient: