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Vegetarian Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells – Italian Comfort

ng t 45 minutes minutes Cook
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Italian cuisine is renowned for its rich and comforting flavors, and one of the classic dishes that embodies this tradition is the Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells. This dish, with its velvety pasta shells filled with a luscious mixture of spinach and ricotta cheese, epitomizes the warmth and heartiness of home-cooked Italian meals. It’s a versatile dish that can be a comforting family dinner or a delightful centerpiece for a dinner party.

Historical Context

The history of stuffed pasta dishes in Italy dates back centuries, with various regions boasting their own versions. Stuffed shells, or “Conchiglie Ripiene,” have their roots in the Southern regions of Italy. These regions, including Sicily and Calabria, have a deep-seated love for pasta, and this dish represents the simplicity and heartiness of their cuisine.

The stuffing, a mixture of ricotta and spinach, is a classic choice, and it’s often accompanied by a flavorful tomato sauce. It’s said that this dish became popular in the United States in the mid-20th century when Italian immigrants brought their cherished recipes across the Atlantic. Today, it’s a staple in Italian-American cuisine and beyond.


Step 1: Preparing the Tomato Sauce

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and minced garlic, sauté until they become translucent. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and season with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, remove it from heat.

Step 2: Cooking the Pasta Shells

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the jumbo pasta shells and cook them according to the package instructions until they are al dente. Drain the shells in a colander and let them cool.

Step 3: Preparing the Filling

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, chopped fresh spinach, mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, and a beaten egg. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Stir well to create a creamy filling.

Step 4: Stuffing the Shells

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Take the cooled pasta shells and carefully stuff each one with the ricotta and spinach mixture using a spoon or your fingers. Fill them generously but avoid overstuffing.

Step 5: Assembling and Baking

In your baking dish, spread a small amount of tomato sauce across the bottom. Place the stuffed pasta shells in the dish, nestling them closely together. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, making sure they are well covered. Sprinkle extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top for a cheesy, golden crust.

Step 6: Baking

Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes, or until the shells are bubbling and the cheese is beautifully melted and golden.

Step 7: Serving

Allow the dish to cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley for a burst of color and flavor.


The Vegetarian Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells represent the heartwarming essence of Italian comfort food. With a history rooted in Southern Italy and a legacy carried to the United States, this dish has become a beloved classic. Its simplicity and flavors make it perfect for any occasion, from a cozy family dinner to an elegant dinner party. This recipe will surely satisfy your cravings for Italian comfort and leave you with a satisfied and happy belly. Enjoy your homemade Italian delight!


prep time
eparat 30 minutesnutes
cooking time
ng t 45 minutes minutes
6 4 servings
total time
t 1 hour 15 minutes minutes


  • Knif

  • Large pot for boiling the pasta

  • Baking dish

  • Skillet

  • Mixing bowls

  • Wooden spoon

  • Grater

  • Knife

  • Colander

  • Foile and cutting board

  • Mixing bowl

  • Spoon

  • Fork

  • Citrus juicer

  • Small whisk


  • 4 ripe avocados

  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced

  • 1/2 cup red bell

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese

  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 egg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (for a delightful aromatic twist)

  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Salt and pepper to tastepepper, finely diced

  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Prepare the tomato sauce.
Cook the pasta shells.
Create the filling mixture.
Assemble, bake, and serve.
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