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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Cast Iron Pan

Spinach and ricotta stuffed shells are an easy and flavorful dinner for any night of the week! The jumbo shells are stuffed with ricotta, parmesan, spinach, parsley, pine nuts, chili flakes, and sautéed onions and garlic — giving them SOoo much flavor! It’s comfort food at its best.

Which is exactly why I decided to start the year off with a comfort food recipe. Sometimes you just need some feel good food… and pasta dishes just seem to do the trick. The last year has been so incredibly busy juggling the demands of my day job and blogging so I have the feeling I want to take a quiet moment to enjoy a little comfort food and time in front of the fireplace with a glass of my favorite wine. :-)

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Cast Iron Pan

How to make spinach and ricotta stuffed shells

There are actually two ways of doing this. The first method being: cooking the shells until al dente before stuffing them with the spinach and ricotta filling, which I have to say is a little more fiddly since the shells are softer. And of course, you need a thicker tomato sauce, otherwise the already cooked pasta soaks up too much liquid. The second method is how I make them for this recipe. The shells are cooked for 5 minutes so that they are still firm (full cooking time is 16 minutes). Then they are stuffed with the filling and baked in a tomato sauce with vegetable broth. Adding the broth to the tomato sauce is what helps cook the noodles while at the same time giving them a little extra flavor boost. This is my preferred method.

Can these stuffed shells be made ahead of time?

I always prefer to make my meals fresh, but if you are squeezed for time and want to do your meal prep ahead of time, I would suggest making the filling ahead of time and then storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. You could even boil the shells, toss with a bit of olive oil before cooling, and then refrigerate them in a covered container too. Then all you have left to do is stuff them and prepare the tomato sauce, which takes all of 30 seconds.

Or you can prepare the filling AND stuff the shells in advance. Though, you’ll want to do so without adding any of the liquid to the baking dish. The pasta will soak it up! Store the stuffed shells covered in the refrigerator overnight and when ready, bring to room temperature, add the liquid and follow the baking instructions. Voila a no hassle dinner! But there are probably some even betters ways for prepping ahead. If you have any tips, let me know in the comments below!

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Cast Iron Pan

I think this is a great dish to serve to guests too! So I hope you guys will LOVE this pasta! It makes such a great meal when you’re looking for something comforting and tasty. And…can we just talk about the leftovers? So delicious.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

A classic Italian pasta recipe – conchiglioni (pasta shells) are stuffed with a delicious ricotta and spinach mixture and baked with a simple tomato sauce. Great comfort food that is delicious, creamy, flavorful and easy to make.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4
Calories: 576 kcal
Author: Elle
Ingredients:
  • 32 jumbo pasta shells (ca 250g) (Muschelnudeln/Conchiglioni)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 690 g glass organic tomato passata
  • 125 ml vegetable broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 450 g frozen spinach (thawed) or fresh spinach, hard stems removed
  • 2 x 250 g container ricotta cheese
  • 40 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Topping:
  • 3-4 tbsp parmesan cheese
Method:
  1. Cook the pasta shells in a large pot of salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.


  2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C and lightly oil one shallow 4-liter oven-proof dish or two 2-liter dishes. (I used a 2-liter dish and a cast iron skillet)


  3. For the filling: heat the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions and garlic until translucent and lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl.


  4. If using frozen spinach, make sure it is completely thawed, then squeeze excess liquid from it. 

    If using fresh spinach, blanch or steam the spinach until wilted, drain. Rinse under cold water, drain and squeeze excess liquid from spinach. Chop finely.


  5. Add the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, parsley, chili, and pine nuts to the bowl with the onion. Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine.


  6. Spoon the spinach ricotta mixture into the pasta shells.


  7. Combine the tomato paste, tomato sauce and broth together in a bowl (or jug) and pour into dishes. Place the pasta shells in the dishes, sprinkle with half the additional parmesan cheese.


  8. Cover the dishes with foil (or ovenproof lid), transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Remove foil, bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for a few minutes, then top with remaining parmesan.


  9. Serve and enjoy! 

Tips:
  • I sometimes make this with a little mint in the filling. For fans of mint, add 1 tablespoon freshly chopped fresh mint along with the parsley.
  • This dish also makes fabulous leftovers since the stuffed shells reheat well. I cover mine and reheat them in the oven. If you are worried about them drying out, then sprinkle with a tiny bit of water. 

If you make this Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe, I’d love to hear how it turned out for you! Be sure to rate it and leave a comment below to let me know! Especially if you have tips for other readers. Or take a picture and tag me on Instagram @ellerepublic and don’t forget to hashtag #ellerepublic so I don’t miss it!

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