Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This easy Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells recipe is one of our favorite dinners. These stuffed shells are make-ahead and freezer friendly, so make a big batch to enjoy for dinners and lunches!
These days I’m all about getting the most out of my cooking. I love it when I find a recipe that not only feeds us for two nights in a row, but also freezes well. Investing time in the kitchen is even more rewarding when there is a big payoff, and a quick meal that just needs heating up on a busy weeknight is a pretty big payoff.
I debated about whether to scale this recipe down to 4 servings, but if I did that you’d end up with half a box of jumbo pasta shells, half a container of ricotta cheese, and half a package of frozen spinach left over. It’s much better (and no more effort) to go ahead and stuff the full box of pasta shells, and have leftover stuffed shells in your freezer for busy days.
I love the fact that this Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells recipe makes a lot, because it’s hard to go wrong with cheesy pasta. I don’t make special “kid meals” for my kids- they either eat what we’re eating as a family or they don’t. But it is nice when dinner is something that they love and enjoy, and these were enjoyed by all. My family also loves this Easy Cheesy Beef and Pasta Skillet and these Cheesy Shells with Broccoli and Chicken.
If you love cheese, then these shells are for you. Filled with a mixture of four kinds of cheese and spinach, and then topped with marinara and grated mozzarella, these baked stuffed shells are totally cheesy and totally delicious.
Cottage cheese is my secret ingredient in these shells, lightening them up a bit healthier without you noticing at all. You can replace the cottage cheese with ricotta cheese if that is you prefer. When I make these, we get two meals out of them, plus I freeze a third of the pasta shells for a later meal. I’ve included make-ahead instructions in the recipe below. 🙂
Why you’ll love this Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe:
- The 4-cheese filling is wonderfully cheesy, yet light thanks to the cottage cheese which lightens the heavier mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Use low fat or part-skim cheese to reduce the fat even further.
- Spinach adds a healthy dose of veggies to this pasta dish.
- This recipe saves you time because it makes a lot of shells, which you can freeze for later.
These Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Brown Butter Alfredo Sauce are another favorite recipe!
Easy Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach
- 12 ounce package jumbo shells
- 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ cups cottage cheese
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese (divided)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 25 ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the jumbo shells. Cook according to package directions for al dente. Be careful not to overcook the shells or they may fall apart as you fill them. Drain and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
- Meanwhile, defrost the spinach in the microwave. (Alternatively, you can put the spinach in the refrigerator the day before to thaw. Put the spinach in a bowl to catch any liquid.) Using a clean kitchen towel, squeeze out the excess liquid. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl stir together the ricotta, cottage cheese, half of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Stir in the spinach.
- Scoop about 2 tablespoons of filling into each shell and place in a baking dish. (Any size baking dish will work. I usually portion the shells out into a few baking dishes according to how many my family will eat per meal. Directions for freezing extra shells are below.)
- Pour the marinara sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes; uncover and bake for 5 minutes more until cheese is melted and shells are hot. Serve immediately.
Make Ahead Instructions:
- Shells can be prepared up to the baking step a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake and serve. You may have to add 5 minutes to the baking time for refrigerated shells.
- Alternatively, you can freeze unbaked shells for up to 2 months. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and then place in freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator for a day before baking as directed above.
- Or, you can bake the shells frozen, directly from the freezer. Frozen shells will take about 15-20 additional minutes of covered bake time. They are done when they are hot and bubbly. If you are baking shells straight from the freezer, you may want to add some additional sauce to keep the shells from drying out during the longer bake time. The sauce can be poured on the shells before or after freezing.
- To make stuffed shells with meat, cook 1 pound of ground beef or sausage in a skillet. Add half of the meat to the filling and the other half to the marinara sauce. You may want to reduce the amount of ricotta cheese and/or cottage cheese so that you won't have too much filling.
- If you prefer, you can substitute ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese.
- If you don't care for spinach you can leave it out of the recipe.
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