Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells
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Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells – a delicious and warming baked pasta dish.

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells | It's Not Complicated #glutenfree #italian #pasta #pastarecipes #italianrecipes #spinach #ricotta #vegetarian #vegetarianrecipes #spinachandricotta #easyrecipes

When entertaining, my preference is for food which is simple to prepare but also has lots of flavour.

A very important part of successful entertaining is a relaxed host. The key to being a relaxed host is simple food which can largely be prepared in advance. (Who wants to have friends over and then spend half the night in the kitchen?!)

I feel that dinner parties, these days, are more about sharing a casual meal with friends and family. I think you will find that people are just grateful to be cooked for (I know I am). Therefore, there really is no need to stress. The meal doesn’t need to be complicated. If that means you prepare just a main course with a salad, that’s fine. A relaxed host encourages a convivial evening, and after all, good friends and good conversation are why you host a dinner party.

I find that a pasta dish which can be prepared in advance is ideal. This recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells was given to me many years ago by my beautiful godmother, Lesley. (It’s also her birthday today!!) Most of my friends would have been served this on more than one occasion (clearly I’m not constrained by never serving the same dish twice) as it fits the required criteria of simple, tasty and prepare ahead.

Although there are a few stages, none of them are difficult. My preference is to prepare the shells a day in advance, if possible; I think the flavours develop better this way.  It also means less last minute pressure and provides the opportunity to get rid of the dirty dishes, leaving you with a clean kitchen bench and a dish which just requires heating.

The first step is to make a basic tomato sauce. While the sauce simmers, the shells are cooked to very al dente, i.e., they are slightly under-cooked, as they will cook further when they are heated for serving.

The filling is then prepared by cooking the spinach together in a little butter, cooled, and then mixed with the remaining ingredients. The cooked shells are filled and placed in a serving dish with the tomato sauce, cream and some grated parmesan.

That’s it; so easy and so delicious. Just serve the shells with a simple green salad and some garlic bread. Oh, a nice glass of wine goes well too! My Eggplant Involtini and Pumpkin and Ricotta Shells are also great make-ahead dishes that you will need to try. 

Let me know what you think!

Xx Alex

P.S. Need some ideas for your dinner party? For a starter to serve with this dish, I would recommend my Cannellini Bean Dip , and a great dessert would be my Italian Affogato!

5 from 29 votes

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells

A dinner party staple, or delicious mid-week meal!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword gluten free, pasta, vegetarian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 528 kcal
Author Alexandra


Tomato Sauce

  • 3 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 brown onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 800 gm diced tomatoes (2 x 400gm tins)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chilli flakes (optional)


  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 250 gm frozen spinach (thawed)
  • 500 gm ricotta (full fat)
  • 1 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated. Divided – see recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup pouring cream (Divided – see recipe)
  • 26 large pasta shells


Tomato Sauce

  1. In a medium sized frying pan heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion, lower the heat and cook gently, about 7 minutes. Stir the onion a few times, it should soften but not colour.

  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.

  3. Add the tomatoes – I always rinse the can out with a little water and add that also.

  4. Add the sugar, dried herbs and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  5. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes. Check the seasoning and set the sauce aside.

Pasta Shells

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.

  2. Add the pasta shells and stir well. I cook them for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, but times differ between brands. When I use gluten free shells they take about 5 minutes. Don’t be guided by the cooking time on the packet; the shells must be slightly under cooked as they will finish cooking when heated in the oven.

  3. Drain the shells well and spread them out, concave side down, on a clean tea towel to prevent them cooking further and ensure all water drains off.


  1. Whilst de-frosting, the spinach will have released some water. Gently press with your finger tips and, holding the spinach in place, tip off the excess liquid that has accumulated in the bowl.

  2. Over low heat, melt the butter in a small frying pan. Gently fry the spinach. Continue gently cooking for about 5 minutes to remove a little more moisture. The mixture should still have some moisture; it should not become completely dry. Allow to cool.

  3. Place the spinach mixture in a large bowl with the ricotta, ¾ cup of parmesan, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Combine the ingredients well.

Assembling the Shells

  1. Preheat oven to 180 Degrees C (350 F).

  2. Put about 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of cream in a large ovenproof dish. With the back of a spoon, blend them together.

  3. Using a dessert spoon, fill the pasta shells with the spinach and ricotta mixture. Place them in the ovenproof dish.

  4. Dollop the sauce on and around the shells and smooth a little with the back of a spoon.

  5. Drizzle the cream on top and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of parmesan.

  6. To prevent the shells from burning, cover with foil for the first 30 minutes that they’re in the oven. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for the final 10 minutes. With the tip of a sharp knife, check that the pasta is completely cooked.

Recipe Notes

I generally buy a tub of ricotta from the supermarket and gently turn it onto paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

If you buy a wedge of ricotta from the deli section at the supermarket it has a drier consistency and you will not need to drain it.

The dish is gluten free if you use gluten free pasta shells.


Nutrition Facts
Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells
Amount Per Serving
Calories 528 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30g46%
Saturated Fat 15g94%
Cholesterol 78mg26%
Sodium 473mg21%
Potassium 620mg18%
Carbohydrates 40g13%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 24g48%
Vitamin A 5785IU116%
Vitamin C 16.3mg20%
Calcium 543mg54%
Iron 3.3mg18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells
Gluten Free Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Shells - It's Not Complicated Recipes #pasta #pastarecipes #familyrecipes #glutenfree #easydinners #spinach #ricotta
Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Shells - It's Not Complicated Recipes #pasta #pastarecipes #familyrecipes #glutenfree #easydinners #spinach #ricotta

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About the Author


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I'm Alex – a passionate foodie and writer. I love sharing delicious and simple recipes to inspire you in the kitchen. Try a recipe? I'd love to see your creations! #itsnotcomplicatedrecipes

124 Comments on “Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells”

  1. 5 stars
    Looks delicious! I kinda miss pasta lately. Spinach is my favorite add everywhere and it’s even better add for pasta. Overall want to make it exactly as you advise!

  2. This is great! Always nice to see some new and interesting pasta recipes and I love how thorough you are. Definitely going to give this a try!

  3. 5 stars
    I would make this in a heartbeat. Looks so delicious and comforting. Perfect for the weather we are having.

  4. 5 stars
    I like how Spinach is added as these are very healthy green. This would be a great main course for my whole family.

  5. 5 stars
    These look so good and would make for the perfect family meal! I love the combination of spinach and ricotta.

  6. stuffed spinach ricotta is a favorite around here. I have my own recipe but i’ll give this a try

  7. 5 stars
    Thank you for this delicious recipe! We all love pasta and I am always on the lookout for new pasta recipes to try. Lucky me, I chanced upon your blog. 🙂

  8. WOW. I am so hungry now. I completely agree that a non-stressed host makes for a relaxed fun evening. This looks simple and yummy. I bet there are a bunch of different twists on this idea too. Thanks!

  9. this looks absolutely delish! i havent had this for awhile now u got me craving! mmm something to make this weekend.

  10. I absolutely love spinach mixed into anything. The only problem is that no one else in my family does. But I have to make certain things sometimes. This looks delicious! I am looking forward to trying this. I will make for me only, and can take some for lunch.

  11. Haha from the first line you gas me hooked, as I am definitely the stressed host. I do need to remember that it is supposed to be fun and fellowship.

  12. 5 stars
    These Spinach and Ricotta shells look delicious! I am a sucker for good pasta and will totally have to try this recipe out this weekend!

  13. I really hate to cook, but love to eat. And pasta and cheese are my weaknesses. This looks so good that I’m going to have my mom make it for our Xmas hors d’oeuvres.

  14. 5 stars
    I love the spinach and ricotta combination when it comes to pasta. I usually have it inside cannelloni, I didn’t know about filled pasta shells before. I bet they are lovely!

  15. This looks AMAZING! I love pasta and everything that is in the recipe, I am going to try it for sure this weekend.

  16. Yummy and nutritious! Oh my, my daughters would love these. They love pasta and anything with cheese and vegetables.

  17. I am absolutely going to make these this week. My girls are huge stuffed shells and spinach fans. YUM!

  18. I am a terrible cook but this recipe looks divine. I am going to save it for my fancy holiday cooking attempts. Wish me luck!

  19. You got me there in that statment! I always go for something simple in preparation, but outstanding in flavor and taste! I love spinach, so this one is really a good dish that I can replicate next time.. I think this would be fit when I’m with cousins on a night party watching tv!


  20. Wow, this is absolutely delicious, my family is going to love this when I cook this coming Friday! Super thx!

  21. 5 stars
    Love the way you explained and illustrated every step of the process. Im so ready for this recipe!

  22. Stuffed shells like this are my favorite. I have never had them with spinach inside but I would love it!

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  25. Spinach and ricotta is such a great combination – especially with pasta. This is a dish my whole family would enjoy.

  26. 5 stars
    This is straight-up the best “impress your neighbors” recipe out there! So good, and leftovers taste just as great! Definitely a favorite at our house.

    1. Thank you Neli, I’ve shared this recipe with so many people over the years. It has always been popular with friends. Yes, leftovers are good too. 🙂 🙂

  27. 5 stars
    I love baked spinach and ricotta filled pasta shells! Here in Italy, it’s a very popular recipe for large gatherings, family lunches and meatless days of abstinence! Yours looks delicious!

    1. Hi Jacqueline, thank you for the lovely feedback. I make this dish often; as you say, it is great for entertaining. I love that I can make it in advance. 🙂

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