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Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

These Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells are easy to make and are a delicious and satisfying meatless dinner that everyone will love. Bonus: They’re freezer-friendly!

I love Italian food, and pasta is always a welcome favorite. Pasta stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese covered in marinara sauce? Even better.

Add some good-for-you spinach, and you’ve got yourself a tasty, hearty dinner that’s easy enough to make for Meatless Monday or any night of the week!

When David and I were in college and our budget was really tight (and the cooking bug hadn’t fully bitten me yet), we lived mostly on three things: pizza (our favorite pizza shop had large pizzas on Wednesday and Sunday for $4!), boil-in-bag turkey or roast beef with gravy {gasp}, and frozen stuffed shells baked with marinara sauce.

The stuffed shells were our favorite then, and they’re still one of our all-time favorite dishes today. Of course, now I make them from scratch rather than buying them frozen because it’s super easy, and I can make them just how I like them!

Plus, I can make extra and have my own frozen shells! This recipe uses half a box of jumbo shells, so I often just go ahead and double the recipe to use up the whole box, and I freeze half. It doesn’t take that much longer to stuff a few extra shells, and I am rewarded in the future with a super easy dinner on a busy day or a night when I don’t feel like cooking.

To make these cheesy spinach stuffed shells, all you have to do is thaw some frozen spinach, boil the pasta shells, mix together the cheeses and spinach with an egg and some herbs, fill the shells, top with sauce, and bake. Toss together a salad, slice up some crusty bread, and dinner is served!

spinach and cheese stuffed shells in a white baking dish with marinara sauce on top

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED:

  • Frozen chopped spinach
  • Jumbo pasta shells
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Egg
  • Dried basil
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Marinara/spaghetti sauce

Use your favorite jarred or homemade sauce (try my recipe for Quick & Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce – it’s super simple and is delicious in this recipe!).

HERE’S A QUICK LOOK AT HOW TO MAKE SPINACH AND CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS:

three images showing steps to make spinach and cheese stuffed shells
three images showing steps to make spinach and cheese stuffed shells
three images showing how to make spinach and cheese stuffed shells

TIPS & TIDBITS:

  • You can thaw the spinach by placing it in a mesh strainer and running it under warm water, or you can cook it in microwave for a few minutes (it doesn’t have to be fully cooked, just defrosted), or you can defrost it in the fridge overnight. Whichever way you do it, just make sure that you squeeze out as much water as possible after thawing so your stuffed shells aren’t watery.
  • I always cook a few extra shells because it seems like there are always a few that break while cooking.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente. I run them under cold water immediately after cooking to stop the cooking process. If the shells are overcooked and too soft, they may be difficult to stuff and hold their shape.
  • To stuff the shells, I just use a spoon, but you can also use a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off if you find that to be easier.
  • I like to heat up some extra sauce for serving my stuffed shells because I love extra sauce! I put some on the plate under the shells – delicious, and it also makes for a nice presentation!
  • If you want extra cheesy shells, you could sprinkle some mozzarella and/or Parmesan cheese on top before baking. I keep it simple and just sprinkle them with some Parmesan when serving.
three spinach and cheese stuffed shells sprinkled with parmesan cheese on a white plate with a fork

HOW TO FREEZE SPINACH AND CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS:

  • After you stuff the shells with the cheese mixture, place them on a large baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper or wax paper.
  • Freeze for an hour or two until the shells are hard. This will keep the shells from sticking together when you put them in freezer bags.
  • Place the shells in freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When you’re ready to cook them, you can cook as few or as many as you want (just adjust the amount of sauce accordingly). Put some sauce in a baking dish, add the frozen shells, top with sauce, cover, and bake. It will take a bit longer to cook the frozen shells, probably 1 to 1½ hours.
  • You can reduce the cooking time by allowing the shells to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
spinach and cheese stuffed shells covered in marinara sauce in a white baking dish

I just love the addition of spinach to the standard cheese-filled pasta shells. Not only does it add a nice pop of color, but it’s a great way to get in some of those wonderful leafy greens!

This recipe makes 16 stuffed shells. In our house, we usually eat 4 each, giving you 4 servings, but if you have kids or lighter eaters, you may only want to serve 2 or 3 per person, so you may actually get more than 4 servings.

I hope you try this recipe for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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3 spinach and cheese stuffed shells on top of marinara sauce on a white plate

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

These Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells are easy to make and are a delicious and satisfying meatless dinner that everyone will love. Bonus: They're freezer-friendly!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4
Estimated Calories: 537

Ingredients

  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 16 jumbo pasta shells, plus a few extra in case some break while cooking
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara or spaghetti sauce, or 3 cups homemade sauce
  • extra marinara sauce, for serving (optional)
  • extra Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Thaw the spinach and squeeze dry. You can do this by placing the spinach in a mesh strainer and running under warm water, cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes (you don't need it fully cooked, just defrosted), or letting it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Which ever method you use, be sure to squeeze it very dry so that your final dish isn't watery.
  • Cook the jumbo shells in boiling salted water according to the package directions until al dente. Be sure not to overcook the shells. If they are too soft, they may be difficult to stuff and hold their shape. Immediately drain the shells and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and pat dry with paper towel if necessary.
  • In a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, basil, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  • Fill the shells with the cheese mixture and place them in the baking dish (with the cheese side up). I use a spoon to fill the shells, but you can also use a pastry bag or plastic bag with a corner cut off if you find that easier.
  • Top the shells with the remaining sauce.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the shells are hot and heated through and the sauce is bubbly.
  • Serve with extra sauce and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Notes

  • If you want extra-cheesy shells, you could sprinkle them with additional mozzarella and/or Parmesan cheese before baking.
  • TO FREEZE: After you fill the shells with the cheese mixture, place them on a large baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Freeze for an hour or two until they are hard (this will keep them from sticking together in the freezer bags). Place in freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • TO COOK FROZEN SHELLS: Take out as many shells as you would like to cook. Adjust the amount of sauce needed accordingly. Spread some sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, add the frozen shells, and top with sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350°F until heated through and bubbly. This can take 1 to 1½ hours or so. You could reduce the cooking time by thawing the shells overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Estimated calories are based on a serving size of 4 stuffed shells and do not include extra sauce or cheese. 
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Recipe Rating




Judy Zika

Thursday 1st of December 2022

Hi Michelle! I’m looking at your tempting Spinach & Cheese Shells recipe and wondering if I could I replace frozen spinach with chopped FRESH uncooked spinach. (Childhood memories of “slimy textured” frozen spinach still make me cringe, but I enjoy working with fresh spinach.) Please advise — and if fresh chopped spinach IS an option, what amount (oz.) should be substituted for the frozen spinach? Thanks very much!

Michelle

Thursday 1st of December 2022

Hi, Judy! Yes, you can use chopped fresh spinach instead of frozen, but I highly recommend that you cook it first and then drain it well/squeeze out as much liquid as you can before adding it to the cheese mixture. One pound of fresh spinach should cook down to approximately the same amount as a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach. I don't recommend adding the spinach raw because it will release water as the shells bake and could therefore cause the filling to be watery. Hope that helps!

Paulette

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Delicious and soo easy to make!

Michelle

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

Thanks very much, Paulette! I'm so happy you enjoyed them!

Emily

Friday 11th of June 2021

Thank you so much for sharing your stories and your recipes! Half of my family immigrated from Hungary and I grew up with similar foods. Like identical! Unfortunately everyone passed away before I could get all the recipes but I do have some like chicken paprikash, etc. I am so excited to try your recipes and be able to share them with the children in our family!! Really, thank you so very much!!