Stuffed Shells with Spinach

Stuffed shells recipe with spinach and three kinds of cheese! Ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella pair nicely with a homemade sausage marinara sauce.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 402kcal
Author: Jessica Gavin



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15ml)
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage (227g)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion (67g) finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (3g)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (45ml)
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes (794g) San Marzano recommended
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano dried
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (4g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Stuffed Shells

  • 16 jumbo pasta shells cook a couple extra in case some break
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15ml)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (6g)
  • 4 cups spinach leaves (144g, 5 ounces) packed, roughly chopped
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese (1 ½ cups) whole milk,
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (87g, 3 ounces) shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (30g, 1 ounce) finely shredded, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (3g)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil (3g)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (6g)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper



  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, once hot add sausage. Break meat up into small pieces as it cooks and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  • Add onion and garlic to a pan, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, stir well to combine. 
  • Increase heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a simmer. Cover the pan, leaving a small opening for steam to escape, and lower the heat to low so that the sauce is simmering.
  • Cook sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add some water if the sauce starts to look dry. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add meat sauce to a 9x13-inch baking dish, spread evenly in the pan.

Stuffed Shells

  • Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 400°F (204ºC) degrees.
  • Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place shells on a sheet pan then set aside.
  • Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, once hot add 2 teaspoons garlic and saute until fragrant but not browned, 30 seconds.
  • Add spinach and cook, occasionally stirring, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Stir together cooled spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, parsley, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg until thoroughly combined.
  • Transfer cheese filling into a large resealable plastic bag or piping bag. Cut off the edge of the bag and pipe each pasta shell with ricotta mixture, and place in a baking dish.
  • Cover the shells with aluminum foil and bake covered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and continue cooking until the sauce begins to bubble about 5 minutes.
  • Serve warm with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.


  • Store-bought tomato sauce can be used, add 3 cups (28 ounces) with the browned sausage and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Ground chicken, turkey, or beef can be substituted for sausage.
  • MAKE IT LOW-CARB: Instead of pasta shells, use zucchini (thin sheets or boats), small bell peppers, or mushrooms caps (portobello medium or large sizes). 


Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 1150mg | Potassium: 639mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2130IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 322mg | Iron: 2.9mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @jessica_gavin or tag #jessicagavin!