Sausage, Spinach, Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells


Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with Italian sausage, spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, covered with cooked tomatoes and baked.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

  • Yield: Serves 8


  • 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


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.

Showing 4 of 70 Comments / Reviews

  • Summer

    My friends & family couldn’t get enough. I’ll be making more for Super Bowl. They’re shaped like footballs & the size is perfect to taste or to feast. We’d love leftovers, but aren’t counting on it. They’re lighter than recipes with mozzarella, so it’s easy to eat just one more.


  • Maret

    Delicious. A family favorite. To cut the fat, I cook the sausage first in my cast iron skillet with no added oil, and remove it to a colander to drain the fat. Then I cook the onion in the olive oil for the 5 minutes, add back the meat to reheat before adding the garlic. The result is still flavorful, but healthier.


  • Karen Parmelee

    Soooo good!I have made this recipe more than a dozen times and it’s always a winner! I never change a thing. Just follow the recipe exactly as is and you will have a satisfying, tasty dinner that is sure to please everyone. It’s wonderful with a fresh salad and good bread. Leftovers heat up nicely, too. Thank you, Elyse!!!

  • 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!

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