Stuffed Shells with Spinach

There's no need to mess around stuffing hot floppy shells. Just stuff uncooked jumbo pasta shells and bake in loads of sauce! Bonus: The shells absorb the flavour of the sauce, and there's plenty of tasty sauce for serving. Because nobody likes dry pasta shells!

  • 2 eschallots/shallots or 1 small onion , finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp each dried thyme and oregano
  • 1 bay leaf , fresh (sub dried)
  • 4 cloves garlic , finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups vegetable stock/broth , low sodium
  • 1/3 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
  • 25 oz tomato passata
  • 1/3 tsp black pepper

For Filling

  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Mozzarella, Colby, Cheddar, Tasty, Gruyere, Swiss, anything!)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan , finely shredded
  • 1 lb ricotta , full fat please
  • 8 oz frozen chopped spinach , thawed
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp cooking / kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp Grated fresh nutmeg (just a sprinkling) or 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder (optional)
  • 1 large garlic clove , minced
  • 1 large egg

Stuffed Shells

  • 1/2 cup parmesan , shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 8 oz jumbo pasta shells
  • Fresh basil and parmesan , for garnish


  1. Squeeze spinach – Grab handfuls of spinach and squeeze out excess water.

  2. Mix filling – Place spinach in a bowl with remaining Filling ingredients. Mix well.


  1. Sauté – Heat oil in a small pot over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, bay leaf, thyme and oregano. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

  2. Reduce wine – Add wine, increase heat to high and let it simmer rapidly until mostly evaporated (about 2 minutes).

  3. Simmer – Add passata, stock, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir then simmer on low *(uncovered) for 20 minutes. Use while hot.

Assamble and bake

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan).Stuff – Stuff UNCOOKED shells with spinach ricotta filling. Stuff them full!

  2. Assemble – Pour the hot tomato sauce in a 23 x 33 cm / 9 x 13" baking dish. Gently place the stuffed shells in – most will be submerged, some may poke above surface.

  3. Bake – Cover with a baking tray (or foil) then bake for 70 minutes.

  4. Cheese it! Check the shells – they should be al dente! (If not, return to oven, covered). Sprinkle with mozzarella then parmesan. Bake 15 minutes until melted.

  5. Serve, garnished with extra parmesan and basil if desired!

1. Eschallots / shallots – Also known as French onions, and called “shallots” in the US. They look like baby onions, but have purple-skinned flesh, are finer and sweeter. Not to be confused with what some people in Australia call “shallots” ie the long green onions.

2. Tomato passata – Pureed, strained plain tomatoes, sometimes labelled “tomato puree” in the US (here’s a photo of Mutti tomato passata sold at Walmart). Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. Passata is excellent for making smooth sauces. More on tomato passata here.

Subs – US Hunt’s tomato sauce is a perfect sub. Can also used crushed canned tomato then puree (like I do for cannelloni/,manicotti).

3. Spinach – I use frozen spinach for the convenience and also because I’m a sucker for the whole “snap frozen” thing. To use fresh, use about 500g/1 lb sliced spinach leaves or baby spinach leaves, saute with a little oil to wilt down and remove excess liquid. Cool then proceed with recipe.

4. Ricotta – Low fat ricotta is harder and drier, so it’s more difficult to pipe into the tubes plus once baked, is not as juicy and moist. Avoid Perfect Italian brand in tubs (Australia, Woolies, Coles etc), has an unpleasant powderiness about it, I find. My favourite is Paesanella.

5. Giant shells (conchiglioni) – available at large grocery stores in Australia these days (Woolies, Coles), also Harris Farms (Syd/Bris) and Italian / delis etc. No need to pre-cook – makes it a nightmare to stuff, the slippery suckers that they are! Just need loads of thin pasta sauce.

I know 250g/8z doesn’t sound like much but it really does serve 5 if not 6 people (with normal appetites).

6. Leftovers – refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze, thaw, then reheat covered in microwave for best results.

Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings (quite generous). 

Nutritional Info 

Serving: 407g | Calories: 798cal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 0.004g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 1716mg | Potassium: 1338mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 8080IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 792mg | Iron: 6mg

Main Course
Spinach stuffed Shells, Stuffed Shells

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