Cheesy, comforting, and delicious! These Spinach Stuffed Shells are a family dinner favorite.
The filling is made with creamy cheese, and it’s generously topped with more mozzarella and baked until melty on top.
These spinach stuffed shells make-ahead and freezer friendly recipe, and leftovers reheat really well.
I’m always up for cheesy and comforting Italian dishes!
Spinach stuffed shells have become one of my family’s favorite dinners! We love to pair it with this cozy Italian Wedding Soup.
The filling for the jumbo pasta shells is made with primarily ricotta, as well as mozzarella and parmesan. It’s a super flavorful, creamy, and cheesy filling!
We love this dish so much that I always make extra and freeze them for later. That’s right, it’s a make-ahead and freezer-friendly meal! Whenever I’m craving a comforting and cheesy pasta dish, I can just grab this from the freezer and bake. It’s that easy!
Why we love making spinach stuffed shells at home:
- Ready in just 1 hour: Great for weeknights or weekends.
- Make-ahead and freezer friendly
- It’s comfort food at its finest!
- Extra cheesy! Filled and topped with lots of cheesy goodness!
These Are Extra Cheesy!
What I love the most about this dish is that we don’t skimp on the cheese.
These shells are packed with creamy ricotta, as well as mozzarella and parmesan for extra flavor. There’s no need to grate your own cheese for this recipe, you can use pre-shredded.
To make the spinach stuffed shells EXTRA CHEESY, I top them with lots and lots of mozzarella cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbly.
Tip: Use whole milk shredded mozzarella cheese – it melts a lot better. Try not to use part-skim mozzarella, as it doesn’t stay very cheese after it comes out of the oven.
Here are a few helpful ingredient notes from recipe testing. As always, the detailed ingredient list with quantities can be found in the recipe card down below.
- Jumbo pasta shells: A 12-ounce box comes with more than 22-24 shells, which is what you need for this recipe, but boil all of the shells just in case they break during the cooking or draining process.
- Ricotta cheese: I use whole ricotta for extra creaminess and texture.
- Shredded mozzarella: Use low moisture whole milk mozzarella. Pre-shredded (bagged) is fine.
- Grated parmesan cheese: Either pre-grated or or fresh works.
- Garlic powder and Italian seasoning: For flavor.
- Fresh parsley and basil: I’d highly recommend using fresh herbs. Adds amazing flavor.
- Frozen spinach: Thawed and excess moisture squeezed out. I wouldn’t recommend using fresh spinach, as it continues to release moisture after being cooked.
- Eggs: Helps to add moisture and bind all the ingredients together, but it’s not necessary.
- Marinara sauce: Your favorite store-bought marinara, or homemade.
I love making this recipe because it’s fun! Something about assembling the shells with the filling and arranging them beautifully is really relaxing. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make spinach stuffed shells at home!
Step 1 | Boil the jumbo pasta shells
In a large pot of boiling water, boil shells until al dente uncovered, about 9-10 minutes. Drain and run cold water through them. This will help to stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking to each other.
Step 2 | Make the spinach and cheese filling
In a bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs basil, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, spinach (thawed and excess moisture squeezed out), salt and pepper.
Step 3 | Assemble
Here’s how to easily assemble these shells:
- Spread a layer of marinara sauce over a 9×13 inch baking dish.
- Fill the cooked pasta shells with the prepared mixture. I’d recommend using a medium cookie scoop for ease. A spoon or even a simple piping bag (resealable bag) would also work.
- Gently bring the edges of the shells together to hold the mixture in place.
- Arrange the stuffed cheese and spinach shells on top of the marinara sauce.
Step 4 | Top with more sauce and cheese, bake
Top the filled shells with more marinara sauce and spread a layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top to your liking. If you want the shells to be more visible, use less cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes (covered with foil). Then bake uncovered for 5 more minutes. Broil on high for 2-3 more minutes until slightly golden brown on top.
Make Ahead Instructions
There are several ways to make spinach stuffed shells in advance:
- Assemble and refrigerate: Assemble the entire dish in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1 day. Bake as directed, adding an extra 5-10 minutes since you’re starting cold.
- Assemble and freeze: Assemble the entire dish in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil (prevents freezer burn), and freeze for up to 2 months. See baking instructions below.
- Prep ahead options: Prepare the filling 1 day in advance and refrigerate. Fill the cooked shells when ready to bake and assemble per directions in the recipe card.
Leftovers reheat well. Simply microwave individual portions for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
How to Bake From Frozen
You can these spinach stuffed shells straight from the freezer, no need to thaw. This is super helpful and convenient.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove any extra layers of aluminum foil. The baking dish should be covered with 1 layer of foil.
- Bake, covered, for 55-60 minutes until heated through. Uncover and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until melted on top. If desired, broil for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden brown on top.
Of course, you can also thaw it overnight first and then bake. Follow baking directions in the recipe card, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
More comforting pasta recipes:
About 22-24 individual shells. This dish should serve about 6 people.
I’d recommend using frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed. It’s much easier to remove excess moisture. Fresh spinach tends to continue to release moisture after being cooked.
Yes! Assemble the entire dish and cover with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil (prevents freezer burn). Freeze for up to 2 months.
Bake (frozen, no need to thaw) for 55-60 minutes, covered with 1 layer of foil. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes until the cheese is melted. If desired, broil for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden brown. Alternatively, you can thaw it for 1-2 days and bake per recipe directions, adding an extra 10 minutes to the bake time.
Tips for Success
- Boil all the pasta shells in the box just in case they break while cooking (not just the exact number of shells needed). A 12 ounce box of jumbo shells should be more than enough.
- Use frozen spinach for best results. It’s a lot easier to squeeze out excess moisture from frozen and thawed spinach than from fresh spinach.
- The easiest way to fill the pasta shells: Use a cookie scoop to cleanly release the filling into each shell. You can also fill a resealable bag with the corner snipped off, and pipe the filling.
- Whole milk shredded mozzarella melts really well. Try not to use part-skim shredded mozzarella.
Spinach Stuffed Shells
- 1 (12-ounce) package of jumbo pasta shells
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 cup frozen spinach - thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (24-ounce) jar of your favorite marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package directions, about 9 minutes. Drain and run under cold water so they don’t stick together, being careful not to break them. Set aside.
- Make the filling: In a bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella cheese, ½ cup of the parmesan cheese, eggs, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, fresh basil, fresh parsley, spinach (thawed and excess moisture squeezed out), salt, and pepper. Mix until well-combined.
- Spread a layer of marinara sauce on a 9×13 inch baking pan.
- Using a cookie scoop, fill the shells with the prepared filling (a cookie scoop cleanly, easily, and evenly releases the filling). Alternatively, you can add the filling to a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off and pipe into the shells. Or simply use a spoon.
- Arrange the filled pasta shells on top of the layer of marinara sauce, open side up.
- Spread some more marinara over the shells, to taste. Top with remaining 1 ½ cups of mozzarella and ½ cup of parmesan cheese. Note: Feel free to adjust the amount of cheese to your liking.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-8 more minutes until the cheese is melted. Then, broil on high for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden brown and bubbling. Let cool down slightly and serve. Enjoy!
- Jumbo pasta shells: A 12-ounce box will be plenty enough. You may have extra, but boil them all anyway just in case because some of the shells may break.
- Use frozen spinach: It’s easier to squeeze out excess moisture from frozen and thawed spinach than from fresh spinach. Cooked fresh spinach releases too much moisture, which could make your dish soggy.
- Make ahead: Assemble the entire dish in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 1 day. Bake as directed, adding an extra 5-10 minutes since you’re starting cold.
- Freezing: Assemble the entire dish in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cover with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil (prevents freezer burn), and freeze for up to 2 months.
- How to cook frozen stuffed shells
- Bake frozen at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, covered with 1 layer of foil. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes until melted. Broil for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden brown.
- Alternatively, thaw it for 1-2 days and bake per recipe directions, adding an extra 10 minutes to the bake time.
- Substitutions and variations:
- Eggs: They add moisture and texture to the filling. You can omit it if desired, but the filling may not be as creamy.
- Fresh basil and parsley: 2 teaspoons dried of each.