Baked Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

from Dinner Uncomplicated

Any combination of spinach and ricotta is a hit with me. Stuff it into tortellini, calzones, even an omelette and I’ll dig in with delight. But this rendition is my favourite. There’s just enough pasta and tons of my beloved spinach and ricotta, all buried under marinara and melty cheese. I’ve been known to take this to a potluck and then eat much of it myself (sorry, friends!!). 

I prefer to use frozen spinach in this recipe, not only because it’s faster but also because I can squeeze more moisture out of thawed spinach, and getting rid of as much moisture as possible is important to making sure the overall dish isn’t soggy.

Make It Ahead: The filling can be made and the pasta cooked and cooled up to 24 hours ahead. Assemble and bake just before serving.


34 jumbo pasta shells (about 450 g)

3 tablespoons butter, divided  

1 onion, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

300 g package frozen leaf spinach, thawed

2 cups ricotta (about 425 g)

Fresh nutmeg (optional)

2 cups marinara sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella 

½ cup Parmesan


Boil the pasta in a large pot of boiling well salted water for 7 minutes or until barely tender (the shells will continue to cook in the oven). Drain and rinse until cold. Brush a 9×13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shells to the dish.

Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan over medium. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute. Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible, then add it to the pan. Cook about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the ricotta and about 5 gratings of nutmeg. Transfer this mixture to a large plastic freezer bag. Snip off one corner of the bag, creating a hole about 1 inch wide.

Squeeze the filling into each shell, until almost full, then place each one open side up in the baking dish. Spoon the marinara sauce over the shells. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then turn on the broiler to high and broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned in places.

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Ready: in about 1 hour

Serves: 6 to 8

Nada’s Tips & Tricks: I’ve made many variations of this recipe. I like to sauté baby spinach (cut off the stems) in the onion and garlic mixture. Also like to add a touch of various flavoured hot sauce to spice things up. For the carnivores around the table, you can add ground meat into the stuffing – just add more ricotta to ensure you get a creamy consistency. 

Contents and images used with permission by Page Two Publishing.