Sausage, Spinach, Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

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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.

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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 Cook pasta shells: 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 Cook onions, then sausage, then add garlic: 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. Lower the heat to medium. 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 Make ricotta spinach stuffing: 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.

4 Fill pasta shells with stuffing: Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture.

5 Arrange stuffed shells on chopped canned tomatoes in baking dish: 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.)

6 Bake: 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.

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

79 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Rich

    forgot to add, putting filling in a plastic bag, cutting corner and squeezing into shells was a welcome tip from another reviewer. Thank you.

  2. Rich

    Quite good,.but for my family it really needs more tomatoes. I will double tomatoes next time.


  3. Don

    I made this wonderful dish, thank you for it. I never have cooked anything with spinach before but it looked so good I decided it was time. I used fresh spinach and after washing it thoroughly I chopped it and then just folded it in with the stuffing. (Not cooked) and the dish was delicious. Why do you need to cook the spinach before using it in the recipe?

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Regina

    I’ve made it SEVERAL times as is – ALWAYS a hit!…. then, 2 nights ago, I decided I didn’t want to take the time to stuff the shells, and bought radiatori pasta instead…. just mixed the pasta in with the stuffing mix (for some reason, I always end up buying more sausage, ricotta and spinach than I need – maybe it’s so I can have ready-to-go lunches in the freezer?)…. baked it in a 9×13 and an 11×15 (hey, use what you have!), and for the last 10 minutes, throw some Italian blend cheese on top (mozzarella and provolone, I think it was), and bake uncovered…. MUCH easier, and my boyfriend liked it even more! WIN!


  5. Lauren

    If using fresh spinach, do you need to cook it first?

    Show Replies (1)
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