These Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells are filled with 3 kinds of cheese, spinach, and baked in a homemade vodka sauce. This classic comfort meal is full of punchy flavors and a real crowd-pleaser!Jump to Recipe
It’s comforting, it’s creamy, it’s packed full of flavor… Say hello to this crowd-pleasing recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Vodka Sauce!
Made with a 3-cheese filling, fresh spinach, and covered in my Homemade Vodka Sauce, these stuffed baked shells are just so delicious and satisfying. Whether you serve them for weeknight dinners, freeze the batch to enjoy later on, or serve them for dinner parties, there’s never a bad time for ricotta stuffed shells!
This baked shells recipe is naturally vegetarian, family-friendly (yes, even with the vodka sauce!), and can easily be made with all of your favorite vegetables or meats. It’s guaranteed to be a hit!
Stuffed pasta shell ingredients
- Spinach – Freshly chopped spinach is mixed in with the filling and wilts in the oven. Feel free to use any leafy green instead or use frozen spinach (thawed and patted dry) if that’s all you have at home.
- Cheese – A mix of ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese makes this baked shells recipe super cheesy and comforting.
- Egg yolks – These are mixed into the filling to help it hold together.
- Jumbo shells – Jumbo pasta shells are boiled until al dente, then stuffed with the cheese and spinach filling before being baked.
- Vodka sauce – Baked shells stuffed with ricotta only get better when they’re surrounded by a tart, bright, and punchy homemade vodka sauce. This pasta sauce is easy to make at home and to store for later, so you can prepare a batch ahead and use it for all kinds of Italian recipes!
- Toppings – Parmesan and mozzarella are sprinkled on top to form a melty, cheesy crust on the oven baked shells. The entire dish is finished with a sprinkle of fresh basil for those classic Italian flavors!
How to bake spinach and ricotta stuffed shells
Once you have the vodka sauce ready and the pasta shells are cooked, this recipe is easy to assemble and bake. It’s also a great make-ahead meal and can even be frozen for later!
It’s ready to eat in about 45 minutes:
- Cook the pasta.
In a pot of boiling water, cook the pasta shells until they’re al dente (still slightly tender and chewy). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and keep it aside.
- Make the filling.
Add the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, and egg yolks to a bowl. Stir everything together and season with some salt.
- Stuff the shells.
Add most of the warm vodka sauce to the bottom of the baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with a heaping spoonful of filling and place each one in the dish.
- Assemble the stuffed shells and bake.
Add the reserved pasta water and the remaining sauce to the dish. Add the parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top, cover the dish with foil, then bake.
- Serve and enjoy!
When the cheese is nice and bubbly, take the shells out of the oven. Let them rest for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil and enjoy!
Tips and variations
- Al dente – The pasta shells will continue to cook in the oven so make sure you only boil them until they’re slightly underdone or al dente.
- Extra shells – Have a few extra shells on hand in case a few rip or tear.
- Sauce – While this recipe is especially delicious with a tart vodka sauce, you can make it with marinara sauce, alfredo, tomato sauce, bolognese, or any pasta sauce you like.
- Cheese – Use all three varieties of cheese in the filling or just one – it’s up to you!
- Pasta water – Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water! This starchy water will keep the shells moist while they bake in the oven.
- Add vegetables – You can add as many vegetables to this recipe as you like. Throw in sauteed mushrooms, shallots, garlic, lentils, zucchini, or roasted cauliflower.
- Add meat – Any ground meat would be delicious in the stuffed baked shells and will make them extra filling. Saute ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken ahead of time and mix them in with the filling.
Frequently asked questions
Vodka sauce is similar to your everyday Roma tomato sauce but has a splash of vodka to help it taste bright and punchy. When the finished sauce is ready, you’ll notice the flavors are quite sharp and almost spicy instead of tasting sweet or herby. Most of the alcohol does cook out, making this a family-friendly recipe.
You can freeze cheesy stuffed shells without or with the sauce already added. To freeze without the sauce, stuff the shells as normal and place them in a baking dish. Once they’re frozen solid, you can transfer them to a ziploc bag or container. Assemble the frozen shells in a baking dish with the vodka sauce when you’re ready to eat and bake!
To freeze the shells with the sauce, assemble the entire recipe as normal but place the covered baking dish in the freezer for up to 3 months. The dish can be baked right from frozen but will likely need an extra 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.
Your leftovers will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. They’re perfect for weekday lunches or quick dinners the next day!
Hungry for more comforting pasta recipes?
- Penne Alla Vodka Sauce Recipe
- Creamy Cauliflower Gnocchi
- Bucatini with Tomatoes and Burrata
- Creamy Lemon Orzo
- Sausage Tortellini Soup with Kale
Did you try these Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Vodka Sauce? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below and giving this recipe a rating! Don’t forget to take a picture tag me on Instagram or use #lenaskitchenblog to be featured in my stories! I love seeing what you come up with!
Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells in Vodka Sauce
Filling for shells
- 3 ounces baby spinach finely chopped
- 16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese drained
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
- ½ lb jumbo shells
- 3 cups vodka sauce use my recipe or store bought
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup basil finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- In a large pot, add water and salt to taste, bring to a boil and cook shells to al dente (8 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.
- Add chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine completely then season with salt.
- Heat vodka sauce in a pan. Add ¾ cup of sauce to the bottom of a baking dish.
- Stuff each shell with a heaping spoonful of the filling. Fill the baking dish with the stuffed shells snug. Add 1 cup of reserved pasta water, to help keep the shells moist.
- Then add remaining sauce on top.
- Top with Parmesan cheese and then mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes to make sure the cheese gets a nice crust.
- Remove from the oven, top with fresh basil, let the shells rest for 5 minutes before serving.