Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells

You really can’t go too long in life without examining whether or not you have a tried-and-true recipe for stuffed pasta shells.

It’s the ultimate in comfort food – jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a creamy, cheesy filling baked up all saucy and delicious – and it’s just one of those recipes you need to be able to pull out of your rock star hat and whip up when dinner is awaiting. The beauty of this recipe is that it can very easily be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated until baking time (love that) and it freezes beautifully, too. Who doesn’t need a good, save-your-busy-bacon freezer meal now and then? I know you know what I know I’m talking about.

I like to throw spinach into the filling to add a pop of color and also a little extra nutrition. My kids are so eager to devour sauce and cheese and pasta that the spinach is a total afterthought for them which is awesome for me.

Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells

Not only is this meal high on the family-pleasing spectrum, it also freezes magnificently and makes a really great take-in meal to your friend that just had a baby or the new neighbor moving in or the coworker who just had surgery or even the family you know who just got a new puppy and whose mom feels like she’ll never have time to make dinner again (ok, that one was thrown in just for my benefit because I’m still having a pity party over how much work a puppy is – how come no one warned me?).

However or to whomever you choose to serve it, these cheesy spinach stuffed pasta shells are a total winner winner pasta dinner.

Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells

What To ServeCheesy Garlic Bread
Skillet Squash Medley or other steamed vegetable
Green salad (thrown together with fresh ingredients on hand or this lovely version)

One Year Ago: Chipotle Chicken Skewers with Creamy Dipping Sauce
Two Years Ago: Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie
Three Years Ago: Marinated Caprese Salad

Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells

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Ingredients:

Sauce:

  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pasta Shells:

  • 24 large pasta shells (about 3/4 of a 12 ounce box)

Filling:

  • 16 ounces (2 cups) cottage cheese
  • 15 ounces (about 2 cups) part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess liquid
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions:

  1. For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. While the sauce simmers, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta shells al dente according to package directions. Drain and immediately place them in an even layer on paper towels or parchment.
  3. For the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and basil. Add the spinach and mix until combined. Stir in the cheeses.
  4. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Spoon about half of the sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan and spread evenly. Fill each pasta shell with an even amount of the filling (about 1/4 cup per shell, more or less) and place the shells on top of the sauce in the pan – making three rows of eight shells.
  6. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top of the shells. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Uncover and bake five or so more minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the shells sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

If you want to use the entire box of shells (there are usually about 32 shells total in a 12 ounce box), prepare an 8X8-inch pan in addition to the 9X13-inch pan and consider increasing the filling and sauce by half. Also, make sure to squeeze as much liquid out of that spinach as possible so the shells don’t have excess liquid (letting the sit for a few minutes after baking will help that, too). If you’d like to reserve some of the cheese (or shred extra) for sprinkling on top of the shells and sauce before baking, feel free!

Finally, this makes a great freezer meal. Before baking the shells, after they have been fully assembled and covered in sauce, cover the dish with a double layer of aluminum foil and freeze. I usually bake from frozen, adding an hour onto the baking time and uncovering for 15-30 minutes instead of just a couple of minutes (so it would be about an hour and a half covered and then 15-30 minutes uncovered).

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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe