Sausage, Spinach, Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

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There must be a special place in heaven for men who cook. My father made this dish the other day to my mother’s and my delight.

It always amazes me that dad, who isn’t a patient man to begin with, and what little patience he had he lost raising six kids, will still make the effort to gently stuff dozens of pasta shells. Not to say there wasn’t any grumbling, but he knew the work was going to pay off, and it did.

Jumbo pasta shells, stuffed with a mixture of Italian sausage, spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, surrounded by tomatoes and baked until bubbly, do you think there were any leftovers? Hah! No way.

Sausage, Spinach, Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe

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  • Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 16-ounces ricotta cheese
  • 10-ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, chopped further (or 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid, tomatoes broken up (or your favorite tomato or pasta sauce)
  • 2 9x13 shallow baking dishes

Method

1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt per quart of water). Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

2 Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up the sausage into smaller bits. Cook sausage until cooked through, and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute more. Remove pan from heat.

3 Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, chopped spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and sausage mixture. Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture.

4 Spread 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in the dishes. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.

At this point you can make ahead, to freeze (up to four months) or refrigerate before cooking. (If freezing, cover with foil, then wrap with plastic wrap.)

5 Heat oven to 375°F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

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Recipe adapted from recipe on box of Barilla jumbo pasta shells, and a recipe appearing in the Sacramento Bee.

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Showing 4 of 89 Comments

  • Sierra

    Excellent recipe. The only things i did that deviated from the recipe were that I omitted the breadcrumbs and used a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses for the top of the shells. I used crushed italian seasoned tomatoes. They came out perfect. Will be making this one again. Thanks for the simple and delicious recipe!

  • Amanda

    Absolutely fantastic recipe!! Made this last night and my husband would not stop raving about how delicious it was. This was after I told him what I was making and he complained he did not want it. As always, great job. Thanks Elise!

  • Polina

    This was amazing in a vegetarian version (without sausage, and with extra ricotta and spinach), with aldredo sauce and bruschetta instead of canned tomato sauce, and fresh salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Hot fresh salsa) on top after the shells come out of the oven for a cool fresh addition to the plate. A HUGE thank you to the commenter who suggested stuffing the shells by putting the Ricotta mixture into a plastic bag, cutting off the corner, and dispensing into the shells that way. Saved me a TON of time! My whole family loved this recipe! Thanks so much!

  • malai

    The Family loves it! My 4 year old actually ate it. I can say,..perfect way for her to eat spinach and not know it!! Love the idea of freezing, simple to pull out and put in oven when ready.

  • Dave

    This was excellent with Mezzerta’s Vodka Marinara sauce in place of the canned tomatoes!

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