Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

Spinach And Three Cheese Stuffed Shells are baked with two sauces, both a marinara as well as a light Alfredo sauce, until hot and bubbly. It’s the perfect dish to serve at a large gathering as the shells can to assembled ahead of time and baked right before serving. However, the stuffed pasta shells are so tasty that you might not want to wait for a party and instead, serve them to your family over the weekend.

Spinach And Ricotta Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces
Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

What makes this stuffed pasta recipe so good? Fresh baby spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic gives a real flavor boost to the creamy three cheese filling. It is then baked with both a homemade marinara sauce as well as a light Alfredo sauce, then garnished with diced fresh tomatoes and fresh basil just before going to the table.

Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

Serves 4, allowing 3 shells per person so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oil in a sauté pan and cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant and just starts to turn golden. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Light Alfredo Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. Wondra flour (quick dissolving finely milled flour) or all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 c. milk, warmed (more if needed)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. Locatelli Romano cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan then whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Slowly add the warmed milk and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and cook for about three minutes more. If sauce is too thick, thin with a little extra milk. Keep warm, with a piece of plastic wrap over the sauce so a skin doesn’t form.

Spinach And Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • Jumbo pasta shells (allow about 3 per person plus a couple extra for breakage)
  • 1 bag (10 – 16 oz.) fresh baby spinach, chopped OR 1 c. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and with all the moisture squeezed out
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Locatelli Romano cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cut into dice (optional)
  • fresh basil leaves, torn and a couple of whole leaves for presentation (optional)

Cook the shells according to package directions, drain and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep from sticking. Sauté the garlic until soft then add the spinach and cook until wilted. Let cool, then place in a bowl and mix in the three cheeses, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary then add the beaten egg and mix well. Pour about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup (depending on size of dish) of marinara sauce into the bottom of a 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Stuff each shell carefully with a heaping tablespoon or so of the cheese mixture (try not to overfill the shells as the pasta might tear) then line up in the baking dish. Pour over half of the Alfredo sauce, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake for about 10 minutes more until bubbly and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

Serve this meal family style right out of the baking dish or plate it as I did with a little extra tomato sauce on the bottom of each plate, top with the shells, add an extra spoon of  the Alfredo sauce and then garnish with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil. Serve any remaining sauces at the table.

*Can be prepared in stages ahead of time and then baked right before serving. Prepare up to the point of it going into the oven then top with parchment paper and wrap in foil and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to put it into the oven, just add a little extra cooking time. The shells can also be stuffed, placed loosely on a baking sheet and placed in the freezer until frozen. Then pack the frozen shells into freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to prepare a meal. If you are only making this for a few people, you can use individual gratin dishes for a pretty presentation. *Note: If you are freezing this dish, do not freeze the assembled recipe in aluminum foil containers as the acid in the tomatoes will react with the aluminum and can eat holes in the foil.

****

Whether making the spinach and ricotta stuffed shells for just two or a large gathering of friends, I believe you will all agree that the two sauces and the topping of fresh tomatoes and basil make this one of the best stuffed pasta recipes you’ve eaten…at least I hope so. All that is needed to complete the meal is a crisp green salad, crusty bread and your favorite bottle of wine and you will have a happy group of people at your dinner table. Buon Appetito!

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199 thoughts on “Spinach And Cheese Stuffed Shells With Two Sauces

    1. Hi Lea Ann, I’m happy to have given you another idea for stuffed shells. I’m glad you like the recipe and appreciate your pin, thank you.

    1. Hi Cynthia, Yes these stuffed shells are very yummy. You will be pleasantly surprised that these shells don’t have lots of calories. The light Alfredo sauce is made with milk and 1% will work just fine, I always use 2% myself. The mozzarella and ricotta used can be part skim. I hope you will give them a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    1. Hi Sue, It is easy to become a fan of stuffed shells. With the two different sauces, I’m sure you would enjoy this version. thank you for your compliment.

  1. Thank you for your nice compliment Gerlinde. This recipe does make a nice presentation with the two sauces, I’m glad you like the shells.

  2. These look gorgeous! And who doesn’t love stuffed shells? Great dish, and one I haven’t made for a few years. But I will — thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment Cathy and I’m happy you like the tips on making the shells ahead of time as well as freezing. Thank you.

    1. I’m happy you like the filling for the shells Angie, thank you. While this is a meal with carbs you would be pleasantly surprised that there are just a little over 350 calories for three shells. Not bad for a delicious pasta dish.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Ronit. Yes, this is a much lighter version than many of the recipes for stuffed shells. I’m glad you like my version. 😀

    1. Hi Deb, I wanted to try and make a version of stuffed shells that would be a little more special than my usual family style meal. I’m glad you like them and appreciate you nice compliment. When entertaining, I do like to prepare as much ahead of time as possible and these were perfect.

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Judi. I bet your crepe style manicotti are delicious, I’ve only had them prepared that way once. I believe you would like the addition of fresh spinach and the Alfredo sauce for a change. 🙂

    1. Thank you Juliana, I’m happy to know that you like the idea of two different sauces for the stuffed shells. I had a busy but nice week, I hope you did as well.

  3. I think one of the reasons stuffed shells are so good for entertaining is that they look appealing and indicate a step or two of effort beyond other pasta dishes. But I also agree with you that they shouldn’t be reserved for company alone! Thanks for the tips on freezing. Sometimes that really is the answer to a busy schedule!

    1. Hi Debra, Yes…too many times we relegate meals for entertaining but the shells are great because you can freeze them after stuffed in individual portions or in large bags so that you can take out as many as you need, perfect for a family meal. I’m glad you liked the post, thank you.

  4. I wish I had this recipe 20 years ago, you see, I had purchased a beautiful Italian ceramic jar from Nordstrom’s NY with large pasta shells in it, I really just wanted the jar! But I had no idea what to do with the shells so they went unused until they were too old. This would have been perfect!

    1. Hi Gallivanta, I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you. If you can’t find the jumbo shells at your local market or Italian grocer you could perhaps use dried cannelloni tubes and just serve two per person.

  5. Well I just drooled and it’s only 5:30am! My daughter who is away at college will absolutely love this! Pinning and sharing. I will definitely surprise her when she comes home in 2 weeks. Thank you Karen! ♥

    1. You are so sweet Didi, I appreciate your pin and thank you for sharing this post with your friends. 😀 I hope you daughter will enjoy the shells if you make the dish.

  6. Wait. 2 sauces? You just broke the rules, Karen…and in the best way ever! These stuffed shells are just screaming my name. They look amazing, and Italian food is always the best comfort food. I’m thinking these shells will be making an appearance in my kitchen soon…they just sound too good! 🙂

    1. I guess I did David and I’m glad you like my thinking. I do hope you will enjoy the stuffed shells with two sauces as much as we did. Thank you for your compliment, I appreciate it very much. 😀

  7. I used to make stuffed shells all the time when my children were young – thank you for the reminder! I never tried using fresh spinach and always did the frozen box thing. Fresh is always best. This is a wonderful treat – and two sauces – wow! Have a terrific weekend Karen!

    1. Hi Tricia, I glad that this post reminded you about how good stuffed shells are. I hope you will give my version made with fresh spinach and the two sauces a try. Thank you for your lovely compliment and wish.

  8. Sounds delicious Karen and very nice presentation. I once made a lasagna dish with white sauce on the bottom and red sauce on top and we loved it, so know I’d enjoy this.

    1. Thank you Larry, I’m glad you can relate to the flavors of this dish with the two sauces. I appreciate your compliment about my presentation…it is a little more special than just serving them family style in a casserole. 🙂

  9. Hi Karen, what a beautiful dish. I love using spinach in all kids of recipes, a great nutrition boost. My kids will eat it raw, but only when doused with great quantities of Ranch dressing. Ew. I prefer better ways of incorporating spinach into our diet. I love these stuffed shells and we will def. be trying your recipe soon. The wind is howling around the house right now and a hot, delicious dinner like this would be welcome. XO

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Allie. I’m glad you like my addition of spinach in with the cheese, it does make for a lighter and healthier version of stuffed shells. I hope your family will enjoy them as much as we did. Stay warm, I see you have rain and snow during the week ahead…winter is one thing I don’t miss about living in New Hampshire.

    1. Hi Heather, Stuffed shells are a favorite of many of us…I bet your mother’s were delicious. Thank you for your compliment about my version.

    1. Thank you Sandra, I’m glad you like the looks of the stuffed shells. Yes, I think three is a nice serving size as they can be filling although my husband might disagree. 😀

    1. Hi Cheri, I think you would enjoy my version of stuffed shells, we thought they were delicious with the two sauces. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Jan, I did think the dish turned out pretty…nice enough for entertaining. Yes, I agree about the fresh spinach as it did add a nice flavor.

  10. This reminds me I haven’t made stuffed shells lately. It’s such a crowd pleaser and nice to make ahead. I like your idea of the two different sauces, both would go over will with my guys.

    1. Hi Gretchen, I’m happy I could remind you about how good stuffed shells are. This would be a nice recipe to use some of the veggies from your garden later in the year.

    1. Thank you Eva, I’m glad you like the idea of two sauces with the stuffed shells. They do make a nice dish to serve friends for dinner.

  11. THese stuffed shells make a fabulous meal for the Easter holiday coming! I LOVE the two sauces you put on top – YUM! Can’t wait to try it. xo

    1. Hi Anna and Liz, You are right…the stuffed shells would make a nice meal to serve at Easter. You could serve a couple as a first course or a larger portion for the main course. Thank you for your lovely compliment and I hope you will enjoy them. 🙂

    1. Hi Marlene, Whenever we have dinner guests, I like serving something that I can do most of the prep work ahead of time. The stuffed shells really are perfect, they make for easy entertaining. I’m glad you like them, thank you.

  12. Dear Karen, I love, love these klinds of dinners/lunches – full of flavor, healthy, delicious, family-friendly, pretty, plus they can be prepared ahead of time. Just perfect. Your recipe sounds wonderful – we always enjoy the flavor combination of spinach, ricotta, tomatoes and pasta!

  13. I always forget how much I love and adore stuffed shells – thanks for the delicious reminder, and now I am going to make yours! 🙂

    1. I’m happy to know that I’ve inspired you Julie. Stuffed shells is a nice change of pace when you want to have a nice pasta meal. Thank you.

  14. Boy, do I wish you lived closer. During this time when I’m spending no time in the kitchen I would have enjoyed one of your yummy meals.

    1. Hi Tandy, Romano cheese is a pure sheep’s milk which is aged over 9 months at a minimum and Locatelli is probably the most famous brand here in the US. We like it better than parmesan for a lot of dishes. The stuffed shells are a great weekend dish, I’m glad you like the recipe.

    1. Hi Cheyanne, While my mother never made stuffed shells, I’ve always enjoyed them. They are a terrific Italian dish to serve a crowd. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  15. Sounds and looks delicious, Karen! I love the fresh spinach and that it has 3 cheeses. Comfort food for sure! Tahnks for the recipe!

    1. Hi Meg, Yes while this is the perfect dish to serve a crowd, it is also nice to make for your family. What I like is that the shells freeze well for a family meal whenever you want them.

    1. Hi Inger, If you haven’t had stuffed shells before, you definitely should give them a try. I’m happy to know you like my version, thank you.

    1. Thank you Amy for your lovely compliment. The shells are great tasting and presenting them with the two different sauces topped with fresh tomatoes does make for a nice presentation. The best thing is that it is an easy recipe as it can all be made in advance.

  16. I have never bought this kind of pasta shells, but they do seem to be the prettier and easier to fill alternative to cannelloni. I would love to try them!

    1. Hi Adina, I have to agree with you about the shells being easier to fill than cannelloni although those shells can certainly be substituted in this recipe. I hope you get a chance to give them a try…thank you.

  17. Just great Karen! love recipes you can make ahead for a crowd– the marinara sauce sounds perfect–great ingredients. This really looks delish and great for when the family all can be here for the weekend. thanks thanks!

    1. Hi Lina, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment. I’m glad you like my recipe…the two sauces do create lots of flavor.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment about the photo Kitty. Yes, several readers agree with you about this being a nice meal to have during lent…I’m glad you like it.

    1. I’d happily make that trade any day Judy. A master gardener helping out while I made stuffed shells for your lunch would be a real treat. 😀 Hope your snow melts soon.

    1. Hi Jas, I’m glad you like the looks of the stuffed shells…my husband and I thought they were delicious. Do try making them again, they are great to serve when entertaining friends. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  18. Who doesn’t love stuffed pasta shells but how often does one serve them with two sauces. Lovely combination of sauces and pasta!

    1. Hi MJ, I have to agree with you, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like stuffed shell. Adding the two sauces just means there is more to love about them. Thank you for your nice compliment. 😀

    1. I appreciate your kind words Grace, they are much appreciated. I’m happy to know that you like my version of stuffed shells…they do make for a nice evening meal.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, These would be a good meal to enjoy on one of your cold evenings. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad the like the shells with the two sauces.

  19. These stuffed shells sound perfect for a get-together! Absolutely loving the idea of adding the two sauces on top. I bet it taste as delicious as it looks.

  20. Looks so good- I haven’t done stuffed shells in ages. I’m always on the lookout for a good homemade marinara too. We’ll have goat milk and cheese soon. Maybe I’ll stuff some of that in there. Cannot wait for sun and garden! Are you gardening in FL? Year round tomatoes?
    cheers x wendy

    1. So good to hear from you Wendy, you have been missed. I had planned on growing tomatoes here in Florida but the landscapers discouraged me…too hot and wet in the summer. Thank goodness we have two farmer’s markets where I can buy heirloom tomatoes. Yea!!! Stuffing the shells with you homemade goat cheese sounds like a great idea. 🙂

  21. I am such a fan of stuffed pasta and these shells look so delicious! I love the garnish of the diced tomatoes… truly eye-popping burst of color. Just perfect. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Maria, If you like stuffed shells, I think you would really enjoy this version. Thank you for your compliment about adding the fresh diced tomatoes…I think it does make for a nice presentation and adds a little extra taste punch. 🙂

  22. I recently used stuffed shells for a recipe and was so in love with how pretty they looked! Love that it came with two types of sauces – my husband is not a fan of just tomato-based pasta but I’m sure he will like this!

    1. Hi Bobbie, You have been missed…I hope all is well with you and your family. You are right, this is indeed a good dish for your family to enjoy, thank you!

  23. Stuffed shells was one of the first things I taught myslef to make for a somple dinner party when I was in my twenties and it remains a go-to for easy entertaining, or familt bashes for that matter. The smell of this dish baking is almost comfort enough. Love the mixture of the two sauces — I feel a riff coming on.

    1. I’m happy to know that you are such a fan of stuffed shells Rosemary. You and I think alike when it comes to serving them to friends and family. I’m glad you like my version, thank you.

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