5-Star Recipe: Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese

This is a wonderful, foolproof recipe that is fancy enough to be served for Christmas lunch or dinner with a green salad and garlic bread. This is a favorite in our family and my kids (and now grandkids) request it for holidays and birthdays.

The good news is that it can be made ahead. It actually gets better if made a few days before the event.

Here’s the recipe:

Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells

Description

In this easy spinach and ricotta stuffed shells recipe, three kinds of cheese combine with quickly sauteed spinach and jumbo pasta shells for an attractive and tasty main dish. Serve along with a green salad and garlic bread for a satisfying and picture-perfect meal.


Ingredients

  • 16 jumbo pasta shells (Cook a couple of extra shells in case a few break while the pasta cooks.)
  • 1–1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 12 oz skim-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded skim-milk mozzarella cheese plus 3/4 cup more to sprinkle on top
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/2 cup more to sprinkle on top
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1–1/4 cups marinara sauce (I make my own with onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and a dash of red wine.)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about a minute or two. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves begin to wilt but are still bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. The spinach should be reduced by half. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, basil, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a shallow 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of the spinach and ricotta mixture, and place in the baking dish.
  4. Cover with the remaining sauce, sprinkle with more mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and then bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top begins to brown and the sauce begins the bubble, another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with a dusting of Parmesan.

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