Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe

Indulge in the delicious taste of these Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells. This mouthwatering dish is a classic Italian recipe that brings together the rich flavors of spinach, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese, all beautifully stuffed into jumbo pasta shells and baked to perfection. It's guaranteed to impress at your next family dinner or gathering.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe
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Photos of Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe

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While most ingredients in this recipe are common kitchen staples, there are a few you might need to add to your shopping list. The star ingredients - jumbo pasta shells and ricotta cheese - are usually available at your local grocery store, but may require a trip to an Italian specialty store if they're not in your regular supermarket. Don't forget to pick up some fresh spinach and quality cheeses to ensure your stuffed shells are packed with flavor.

Ingredients for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

Jumbo pasta shells: A larger variant of traditional pasta shells, perfect for stuffing with your favorite fillings.

Spinach: A nutrient-rich leafy green that adds a fresh, vegetal note to the dish.

Ricotta cheese: An Italian whey cheese with a light, creamy texture that's ideal for stuffing pasta.

Egg: Helps to bind the stuffing ingredients together.

Basil: An aromatic herb that lends a distinct, peppery flavor to the dish.

Oregano or Thyme: Both are earthy, aromatic herbs that add depth to the flavor profile.

Garlic clove: Provides a robust, pungent flavor that complements the cheese and spinach.

Mozzarella cheese: A soft, mild cheese that melts beautifully, adding a gooey, stringy texture.

Parmesan cheese: A hard, granular cheese that adds a sharp, salty flavor to the dish.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper: Essential seasoning that enhances all the other flavors in the dish.

Marinara sauce: A tangy tomato sauce that adds moisture and zesty flavor to the dish.

Red pepper flakes: Adds a spicy kick to the dish, but can be adjusted according to personal preference.

One reader, Adrianna Tyner says:

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This spinach and cheese stuffed shells recipe is a game-changer! The combination of creamy ricotta, flavorful spinach, and gooey mozzarella is simply divine. It's a crowd-pleaser and perfect for a cozy family dinner. The flavors are so rich and comforting, and it's surprisingly easy to make. Highly recommend!

Adrianna Tyner

Techniques Required for Making Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

How to prepare the cheese mixture: Blend together ricotta cheese and egg in a mixing bowl. Stir in basil, thyme, and garlic. Add mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then mix in the prepared spinach. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

How to stuff the shells: Divide the cheese mixture among the cooked pasta shells, stuffing each shell full with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture.

How to assemble the shells in the baking dish: Spread ⅓ cup of marinara sauce into an even layer along the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Align the stuffed shells in the baking dish side by side, with the opening of the shells facing upright.

How to bake the stuffed shells: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

How to serve: Serve the stuffed shells warm.

How To Make Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are crammed to the brim with three cheeses and spinach, then baked in marinara sauce for a perfectly hearty meal.

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Total: 55 minutes

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 30jumbo pasta shells,cooked according to directions listed on package
  • 15ozspinach,fresh, steamed just until wilted, squeezed dry with paper towels and chopped
  • 15ozricotta cheese
  • 1large egg
  • 3tbspbasil,fresh chopped
  • 1tsporegano or thyme,fresh chopped
  • 1garlic clove,finely minced
  • 3cupsmozzarella cheese,finely shredded, divided
  • 1cupParmesan cheese,finely shredded
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper,to taste
  • 3cupsmarinara sauce,homemade or store-bought
  • red pepper flakes,optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, using a fork, blend together Ricotta cheese and egg. Stir in basil, thyme and garlic.

  2. Add 2 cups of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and toss mixture to combine. Mix in prepared spinach. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Spread ⅓ cup of marinara sauce into an even layer along bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.

  4. Divide cheese mixture among cooked pasta shells, stuffing each shell full with about 2 tablespoons of cheese mixture.

  5. Align shells in baking dish side by side, with the opening of shells facing upright.

  6. Stir red pepper flakes to taste into marinara sauce if desired. Cover shells evenly with remaining marinara sauce then sprinkle tops evenly with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

  7. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Notes

 

Nutrition

  • Calories: 626.19kcal
  • Fat: 31.19g
  • Saturated Fat: 18.57g
  • Trans Fat: 0.01g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 8.72g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.72g
  • Carbohydrates: 49.67g
  • Fiber: 4.27g
  • Sugar: 6.94g
  • Protein: 36.63g
  • Cholesterol: 121.37mg
  • Sodium: 1169.74mg
  • Calcium: 796.96mg
  • Potassium: 743.34mg
  • Iron: 3.11mg
  • Vitamin A: 471.41µg
  • Vitamin C: 13.77mg

Helpful Technique for Perfecting Stuffed Shells

When stuffing the pasta shells, it's best to use a small spoon or a piping bag to ensure an even distribution of the spinach and cheese mixture. This not only makes the process easier but also ensures each bite is full of flavor. Additionally, be careful not to overstuff the shells as they can break. Just fill them until they're comfortably full.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing This Recipe

Prep ahead: Prepare the cheese and spinach filling the day before and store it in the refrigerator. This will save time on the day of cooking.

Boil in batches: Cook the pasta shells in batches to save time and prevent them from sticking together.

Use a piping bag: Fill the pasta shells with the cheese mixture using a piping bag for a quicker and more uniform process.

Freeze for later: Make a double batch and freeze half for a quick and easy meal on a busy day.

Pre-shredded cheese: Save time by using pre-shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese for the filling.

Substitute Ingredients For Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe

  • spinach - Substitute with kale: Kale has a similar texture and can provide a slightly different flavor profile to the dish.

  • ricotta cheese - Substitute with cottage cheese: Cottage cheese can be used as a lower-fat alternative with a similar creamy texture.

  • mozzarella cheese - Substitute with provolone cheese: Provolone has a similar melting quality and a slightly sharper flavor.

  • marinara sauce - Substitute with arrabbiata sauce: Arrabbiata sauce adds a spicy kick to the dish and can provide a different flavor profile.

Presentation Tips for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the stuffed shells, carefully arrange them on the plate, ensuring they are evenly spaced and not overcrowded. The goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing arrangement that showcases the individual beauty of each shell.

  2. Garnish with fresh herbs: Sprinkle the plated shells with freshly chopped basil or parsley to add a pop of color and a touch of freshness. This not only enhances the visual appeal but also adds a layer of flavor to the dish.

  3. Drizzle with balsamic reduction: Create an elegant drizzle of balsamic reduction around the edge of the plate for a sophisticated touch. The sweet and tangy flavor will complement the richness of the stuffed shells beautifully.

  4. Add a touch of microgreens: Place a small bundle of delicate microgreens on top of the stuffed shells for a refined and gourmet presentation. The vibrant greens will provide a contrast to the warm tones of the dish.

  5. Use a high-quality serving platter: Present the stuffed shells on a sleek and modern serving platter to convey a sense of sophistication and attention to detail. The choice of platter can elevate the overall presentation of the dish.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Making Stuffed Shells

  • Mixing bowl: A large, deep bowl used for mixing and combining ingredients.
  • Baking dish: A rectangular or square dish used for baking and serving dishes such as casseroles and pasta bakes.
  • Aluminum foil: A thin, pliable sheet of aluminum used for covering dishes during baking to retain moisture and heat.
  • Fork: A kitchen utensil with prongs, used for blending and mixing ingredients together.
  • Food processor: A kitchen appliance used for chopping, slicing, and pureeing ingredients quickly and efficiently.

Storage and Freezing Instructions for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

  • Allow the stuffed shells to cool completely before storing or freezing.
  • To store in the refrigerator, place the cooled stuffed shells in an airtight container. They will keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
  • For freezing, you have two options:
    1. Freeze the entire dish: Assemble the stuffed shells in a freezer-safe baking dish, but do not bake. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Label with the date and freeze for up to 2-3 months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed, adding an extra 10-15 minutes to the baking time.
    2. Freeze individual portions: Place the cooled, baked stuffed shells in a freezer-safe container, separating layers with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Cover tightly and freeze for up to 2-3 months. To reheat, remove the desired number of shells from the freezer, place them in a baking dish, and cover with marinara sauce. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.
  • When reheating refrigerated or frozen stuffed shells, you may need to add extra marinara sauce to prevent them from drying out.
  • If you have leftover ricotta and spinach filling, you can freeze it separately in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using in future recipes.

How To Reheat Leftover Stuffed Shells

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the leftover stuffed shells in an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes to allow the cheese to melt and become slightly golden.

  • For a quicker option, place the stuffed shells on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through. Be careful not to overheat, as this may cause the pasta to become rubbery.

  • If you have a few extra minutes, consider adding a fresh layer of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese on top of the stuffed shells before reheating in the oven. This will give them a fresh, cheesy flavor and help prevent the pasta from drying out.

  • For a crispy top, place the stuffed shells under the broiler for 1-2 minutes after reheating in the oven. Keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.

  • If you have an air fryer, you can reheat the stuffed shells at 350°F (175°C) for 5-7 minutes. This method will give you a crispy exterior while keeping the filling warm and gooey.

Interesting Trivia About Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

The spinach and cheese stuffed shells recipe is a delicious and nutritious dish that combines the flavors of ricotta, spinach, and marinara sauce. This recipe is a great source of calcium, iron, and vitamins. It's a versatile dish that can be customized with different herbs and spices to suit your taste preferences. Plus, it's a convenient make-ahead meal that can be prepared in advance and baked when needed. Whether you're hosting a dinner party or looking for a comforting family meal, this recipe is sure to be a hit. Enjoy creating this flavorful dish in your kitchen!

Budget-Friendly: Is This Recipe Economical for Home Cooking?

The cost-effectiveness of this spinach and cheese stuffed shells recipe largely depends on the availability and cost of ingredients in your area. Spinach, ricotta, and mozzarella are generally affordable, making this a budget-friendly option. The overall verdict rating for this recipe is 8/10 for its simplicity, delicious flavors, and versatility. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people is around $15-$20, making it a reasonable choice for a satisfying and wholesome meal.

Is This Dish Healthy or Unhealthy?

This spinach and cheese stuffed shells recipe is a delicious comfort food, but it may not be the healthiest option due to its high cheese content. The dish is rich in calcium and protein from the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, but these ingredients also contribute to a high saturated fat content. The spinach adds a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron, but the overall nutritional balance could be improved.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Reduce the amount of cheese used in the filling and opt for low-fat or part-skim varieties to decrease the saturated fat content
  • Increase the proportion of spinach or add other vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, or bell peppers to boost the fiber and nutrient content
  • Use whole-grain pasta shells to increase the fiber and complex carbohydrates in the dish
  • Prepare a homemade marinara sauce using fresh tomatoes, herbs, and spices to control the sodium content and avoid added sugars found in some store-bought sauces
  • Serve the stuffed shells with a side salad or roasted vegetables to create a more balanced meal

Editor's Opinion on Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

This spinach and cheese stuffed shells recipe is a delightful combination of flavors and textures. The blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese creates a rich and creamy filling, while the spinach adds a pop of freshness. The marinara sauce provides a comforting and savory backdrop to the dish. The addition of red pepper flakes adds a subtle kick, elevating the overall flavor profile. The recipe is straightforward and yields a visually appealing dish that is perfect for a cozy family dinner or a gathering with friends.

Enhance Your Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Bread: A warm and crispy garlic bread would be the perfect accompaniment to these cheesy stuffed shells. The garlic flavor will complement the richness of the cheese and spinach filling.
Caesar Salad: A classic Caesar salad with crisp romaine lettuce, tangy Caesar dressing, and crunchy croutons would provide a refreshing contrast to the creamy stuffed shells.
Roasted Vegetables: Colorful and flavorful roasted vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, would add a healthy and vibrant element to the meal.

Similar Recipes to Try If You Love Stuffed Shells

Creamy Chicken Alfredo: This creamy and indulgent pasta dish is perfect for a cozy night in. The combination of tender chicken and rich alfredo sauce will leave you wanting more.
Mango Salsa Chicken: Add a tropical twist to your chicken dinner with this flavorful mango salsa. The sweet and tangy flavors of the mango complement the savory chicken perfectly.
Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad: This healthy and colorful salad is packed with roasted vegetables and protein-rich quinoa. It's a satisfying and nutritious meal that's perfect for lunch or dinner.
Berry Cobbler: Indulge in the sweet and juicy flavors of mixed berries with this delicious cobbler. The buttery, golden crust pairs perfectly with the warm, bubbling berries.

Appetizer and Dessert Pairings for Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

Appetizers:
Stuffed Mushrooms: Delight your guests with these savory stuffed mushrooms filled with a flavorful mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and herbs. The perfect bite-sized appetizer to kick off any meal.
Bruschetta: Elevate your appetizer game with these classic bruschetta bites. Toasted baguette slices topped with a fresh and zesty mixture of tomatoes, basil, and balsamic glaze. A refreshing and satisfying start to any meal.
Desserts:
Chocolate Lava Cake: Indulge in a decadent, warm chocolate lava cake that oozes with rich, molten chocolate when you cut into it. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the perfect balance of sweetness and creaminess.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Create a creamy and luscious strawberry cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust. Top it with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of strawberry sauce for a burst of fruity flavor in every bite.

Why trust this Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe:

This recipe guarantees a delicious and satisfying meal, as it incorporates fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese, providing a perfect balance of flavors and textures. The addition of aromatic basil and oregano enhances the dish, while the blend of mozzarella and parmesan cheese adds a rich and indulgent touch. The use of quality marinara sauce ensures a robust and flavorful base, while the incorporation of red pepper flakes offers a hint of heat. Trust in this recipe for a delightful and comforting dining experience.

Want to share your experience making these spinach and cheese stuffed shells or have any tips to perfect the recipe? Join the discussion in the Recipe Sharing forum section!
FAQ:
Can I use frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach?
Yes, you can use frozen spinach in this recipe. Just make sure to thaw and drain the frozen spinach before mixing it with the cheese mixture.
Can I prepare the stuffed shells ahead of time?
Absolutely! You can prepare the stuffed shells ahead of time and refrigerate them until you're ready to bake. Just make sure to cover the dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.
Can I use a different type of cheese instead of mozzarella and parmesan?
Certainly! Feel free to experiment with different types of cheese to suit your taste. You can try using provolone, fontina, or even a blend of different cheeses for a unique flavor.
How can I make the dish spicier?
If you prefer a spicier flavor, you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the cheese mixture or sprinkle some on top of the stuffed shells before baking. You can also use a spicy marinara sauce for an extra kick.
Can I freeze the stuffed shells?
Yes, you can freeze the stuffed shells for later. After assembling the dish, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer. When you're ready to enjoy them, simply thaw in the refrigerator and bake according to the original instructions.

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