Sausage and spinach stuffed shells with ricotta cheese! These appetizing stuffed pasta shells are ideal for making in advance. In this recipe you can easily learn how to make them. And just pop them in the oven when you need them!
Easy to make weeknight one pot pasta dish! Prepare the shells ahead of time and simply pop them in the oven. I think there’s nothing better than having a restaurant quality pasta dish on the table within minutes! Especially when I’m treating my family and friends. They love a good stuffed pasta dish any night of the week! This pasta dinner recipe is simple, fast and delicious!
How to make Ricotta Stuffed Shells Filling
The pasta shells filling is made with pork sausage, spinach, tomatoes and ricotta cheese. And GARLIC! And yes, these delicious ingredients are rich, cheesy and so comforting. They also make your kitchen smell amazing and make you look good in front of family members.
What kind of sausage to use
Italian pork sausage is what I used in this recipe. It’s usually seasoned with fennel or anise. We get mild sausage in casings from our local store and it usually comes very long, shaped as a wheel casing.
I remove it from the casings by cutting a slip down the sausage and pulling the casing away from the meat. This needs to be done prior to cooking.
You can also buy bulk Italian sausage without any casings if you are able to find it. This way you won’t have to remove casings at all.
How to choose Ricotta cheese
When you shop for ricotta, make sure that it has nothing more than milk, salt, and either an acid or bacterial starter. Avoid anything with a gum listed. These gums bind water but release it as you heat the ricotta up.
How to precook pasta shells
Shells need to be precooked before filling them with a stuffing. I boiled mine in a large pot of salted water for 10 minutes, drained them, and then transferred to a baking sheet to cool.
Make sure they are not lumped together at this point. They are going to stay there until the filling is done.
How to make pasta shells filling
Brown the sausage first
Heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. As the sausage cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces in the pan.
Stir in the garlic, tomatoes and spinach
Cook spinach, tomatoes and sausage on medium heat until heated through, about 4-5 minutes. You can also use your favorite tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones.
Add ricotta cheese
Next, you will add ricotta cheese to make the mixture creamy. Stir it well with the rest of ingredients.
How to stuff shells
Each shell is stuffed with a tablespoon of the filling. You can stuff them on the baking sheet and then transfer them back to the pan to reheat.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells and reheat for 5 minutes. They are ready to serve as is, sprinkled lightly with Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Or, arrange the shells into the baking dish, and bake for 25 minutes (this is a good way to reheat these shells if making them in advance – make sure to sprinkle generously with Parmesan).
HOW TO FREEZE SAUSAGE STUFFED PASTA SHELLS
Make sure to freeze them on the baking sheet as individual pieces. Doing so will keep them from sticking to each other. Once frozen, shells can be transferred into a zip lock bag for storage.
HOW TO REHEAT RICOTTA PASTA SHELLS
Preheat oven to 375F, arrange the shells into the baking dish, sprinkle with LOTS of Parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes (reheating in the oven is the preferred way to reheat these shells if making them in advance – just make sure to sprinkle generously with Parmesan).
Are you enjoying Italian style pasta dishes as much as we do? How about these delicious pasta recipes with step by step instructions:
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Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells with Sausage and Spinach
- 20 pasta shells, (jumbo)
- 1 pound pork sausage, (casings removed)
- 3 cloves garlic, (finely chopped)
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups spinach
- 4 ounces ricotta cheese, (about ½ cup)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (more, if desired)
- Parsley, optional for decoration
- HOW TO COOK SHELLS: Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta shells then follow package directions for cooking the shells (I cooked mine for 10 minutes). Drain, and then rinse the shells with cold water. Set aside on a baking sheet.
- HOW TO MAKE FILLING: Heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. As the sausage cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces in the pan.
- Stir in the garlic, canned tomatoes and spinach. Cook until heated through and liquid reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat then stir in the ricotta cheese. Taste for seasoning then adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
- HOW TO STUFF SHELLS: Each shell is stuffed with a heaping tablespoon of the filling. You can stuff them on the baking sheet and then transfer them back to the pan to reheat. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells and reheat for 5 minutes. They are ready to serve as is, sprinkled lightly with Parmesan cheese and parsley.
- HOW TO REHEAT SHELLS: Preheat oven to 375F, arrange the shells into the baking dish, sprinkle with LOTS of Parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes (reheating in the oven is the preferred way to reheat these shells if making them in advance – just make sure to sprinkle generously with Parmesan).
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only. This information comes from online calculators. Although whatsinthepan.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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Make sure to use a good heavy skillet here, such as cast iron and make sure it’s a large one too. I used this 12 inch Lodge Cast Iron Skillet – it never sticks or leaves weird black dots like other cast iron skillets do. And it has over 9,000 positive reviews on Amazon.
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I can’t find those giant where can I find them?
I used barilla brand jumbo shells at my local grocery store. I think larger stores are more likely to have them in stock.
Do you use regular ground pork or Italian pork sausage (removed from casings)?
Olga at Whatsinthepan says
Italian pork sausage with casings removed. I used mild Italian sausage that comes as a big wheel.
Best recipe ever & so easy!
I baked mine in the rectangular casserole dish – perfecto!
This was delicious and not as pretty as the original photo because I did not add the spinach. I would add more diced tomatoes and sauce as to what the recipe was called for. I made the 10 shells but could not eat it all. Froze more than half of them.
Very good, I used more ricotta and spinach. Came out great.
Made these and baked them in the oven with plenty of parmesan on top. Very pleased.
Olya at Whatsinthepan says
I bet they were crispy too, baking them is a good idea.
My husband loved this recipe. I recommend it to other cooks who like easy, delicious meals. I will definitely make this again.
I haven’t made this yet, but I am planning too. It looks very tasty.