Pan-baked vegetarian stuffed pasta dish with red sauce and cheese.
Delicious dairy dish for a hearty dinner. Made with spinach, pasta shells and tomato sauce- the perfect Italian combo that the whole family will love.
Usually this dish contains 3 different cheese types in the filling, including ricotta cheese. This way the filling is more on the cheesy, creamy side.
However my version of the dish is made with mozzarella and parmesan only (which are the other cheese types I mentioned above) and the spinach is the more significant filling ingredient. I find it makes the dish a bit lighter and more spinachy and herby. Don't worry, it's still cheesy and delicious!
Another important thing to mention is that sometimes this dish also contains meat but my blog is kosher (and also vegetarian), so I don't share any meat and dairy recipes and this recipe has no meat at all.
Originally I shared this recipe in March, when Passover was coming, whether we wanted to admit it or not. This dish was my "get rid of chametz" recipe to start preparing for the holiday. And the spinach stuffed pasta shell dish is still relevant now, as most of us probably have pasta in our pantry and we need to use it somehow! I had this large pasta shell package to use which inspired me to share this amazing spinach stuffed pasta shell recipe! Not only does it get you ready for no more chametz but it’s a great dinner recipe!
Pasta shells- large pasta shells often called jumbo shells too. It's easier when you have big shells to actually fill them with the filling. If you use other pasta shapes the outcome is more like a layered dish like lasagna.
Spinach- I used frozen chopped spinach that comes in cubes, you can use fresh spinach as well just cook it in a pan with a little oil then blend with a blender to have it fully chopped.
Tomato sauce- I used store-bought tomato sauce, you can also make tomato sauce from scratch.
Cheese- You can add any other hard cheese you want like cheddar or gruyere if you prefer not to use mozzarella.
The process of making the stuffed spinach pasta shell dish starts with the pasta, of course. The pasta needs to be cooked before stuffing. Then you mix the filling ingredients in a bowl. Start by adding some tomato sauce to the bottom of the baking pan. Then arrange the cooked pasta on top of the sauce layer and pipe the filling to each pasta shell. I find that the best way to stuff shells is to transfer the filling to a piping bag, it's clean and easy to fill each shell. (If you don’t have a piping bag, you can fill the shells with a teaspoon instead but it's a bit more messy).
Add more tomato sauce on top of the stuffed shells, sprinkle parmesan cheese, cover and bake for half an hour. The whole process is very simple and it is only a matter of assembling everything together. The outcome has a rustic look and the flavor is just divine!
Substitutions tips and more
- Note that if you have any other pasta types, this recipe still applies. All you need to do is layer the filling instead of actually filling the pasta. Something like making lasagna but with different layers. This filling recipe can work to fill cannelloni too, which are basically rolled lasagna sheets.
- If you use frozen spinach and need to thaw it, I like to place it in a colander on top of a pot with boiling water. Mix very gently and try not to break the cubes completely. Once thawed, I just take the colander out of the water pot and transfer the spinach to a mixing bowl to combine with the other filling ingredients.
- If you want to add more vegetables to the dish and make it richer and healthier, you can add roasted carrots, mushrooms and peppers to the filling. Roast them separately and when ready, chop them into small pieces and mix with the rest of the filling.
What to serve with stuffed pasta shells
If you are wondering what side dishes go with this delicious spinach stuffed shell dish I have some great ideas below. In general any salad works or another option is to serve soup as an entree and then the stuffed shells for a great filling, hearty dinner.
Since this dish contains dairy, it also fits the Shavuot holiday meal as well. Another idea is to serve it during Hanukkah when you need a tasty dish to balance all the fried food. Often Hanukkah is all about dairy meals so this dish is perfect for that. As I mentioned, I used it as a "get rid of chametz" dish so it really is a great dinner any time and goes with any side dish you like to have. here are my side dish suggestions:
1. Pear salad
Other pasta recipes
If you like this recipe check out my other pasta recipes:
For more dinner recipes, explore my dinner recipe index.
Let's start making these delicious spinach stuffed pasta shells (with no ricotta):
Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 1 pound (500 grams) pasta shells
- 2 cans tomato sauce (800 grams total | ~28oz)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
For the filling:
- Frozen chopped spinach (I used the one that comes in cubes, 600 grams | ~21oz)
- ⅔ cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2-3 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Salt and pepper, by your taste
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box and set aside.
- Thaw the frozen spinach completely.
- Add the thawed spinach to a bowl and mix with the other filling ingredients.
- Transfer the filling to a piping bag (or use a teaspoon).
- Set the oven to 180°C / 350°F with the fan.
- Add a layer of tomato sauce to a baking pan (9x13).
- Arrange the cooked pasta shells on the sauce layer.
- Pipe the filling into the shells.
- Cover the rest with the tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered.
- Remove cover and bake for more 4-5 minutes.
- Cool at room temperature.
- Munch and enjoy!