Baked ricotta and spinach shell pasta
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Delicious Ricotta and Spinach Filled Pasta Shells

These jumbo ricotta and spinach-filled pasta shells lie on a blanket of fresh homemade tomato sauce, are covered with mozzarella, and baked to perfection.

My husband loves his pasta. These ricotta and spinach filled pasta shells are one of the ways I found to keep him happy. Whenever I ask him what he thinks we should have for dinner, his response more often than not is pasta. I am always looking for different ways of making pasta.

Ingredients

Just a handful of ingredients, but a plateful of flavour. That’s how I see these pasta shells.

Ingredients for ricotta and spinach filled pasta
Ingredients for ricotta and spinach filled pasta
Making the tomato sauce

I like making my own tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, but that’s not necessary for this dish. If you want to make it quick, you can always use a store-bought pasta sauce and that will work just as well in this recipe.

To make the tomato sauce, chop one onion and 3 garlic cloves. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and cook the onions and garlic till softened – about 3-4 mins.

Cooked onion and garlic
Cooked onion and garlic

If using fresh tomatoes, blend them into a puree. I chop the tomato into quarters leaving the seeds, etc. in and just blend everything. Add the puree to the pan with the onions and cook for about 20 mins, stirring occasionally. The idea is to dry the liquid from the tomatoes and cook them at the same time. While the tomatoes are cooking, add about 10 or so whole fresh basil leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 teaspoon of dehydrated oregano to the pan as well.

Cooked tomato sauce
Cooked tomato sauce
Making the ricotta and spinach filling

In a mixing bowl, add 1-454 gram package ricotta cheese, 3 egg yolks, salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Ricotta, egg yolks, salt and pepper
Ricotta, egg yolks, salt and pepper

In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add 3 chopped garlic cloves to it. I use a 500-gram package of frozen spinach (thawed). Add the spinach to the pan with the garlic and cook for about 3 or so mins. Just to ensure that the spinach breaks up and mixes well with the spinach. Using frozen spinach also means that there will be no liquid as the spinach cooks.

With spinach
With spinach

Add the spinach to the bowl with the ricotta and mix everything so that the spinach and ricotta are well combined.

Assembling the ricotta and spinach filled pasta shells

Boil 20 jumbo pasta shells as per the directions. Keep them al-dente because they will continue to cook when we bake them. I usually boil some extra because they get soft as they cook and sometimes break.

Filled shells
Filled shells

Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with oil. Pour half the tomato sauce into the baking dish. Take one of the shells and using a spoon, fill it with the ricotta and spinach mix. Make sure that you open the shell as you start to fill it and then let it close on its own. Place the shell on top of the tomato sauce. Repeat filling all the shells and keep placing them on the tomato sauce.

Filled shells on top of sauce
Filled shells on top of sauce

Once you are done filling the shells and all the ricotta spinach mix is gone, pour the remaining half of the tomato sauce on top of the filled shells. Generously sprinkle the shells with 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese making sure to cover all of the shells well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 20 mins or until you see the tomato sauce bubbling from the corners. If by then the cheese is not browned, broil the pasta shells for a further 5 mins. Keep an eye on the shells because you don’t want the cheese to burn.

Baked ricotta and spinach filled pasta shells
Baked ricotta and spinach filled pasta shells

Let rest for about 5 mins then serve with a side of green salad or garlic bread or both.

Baked ricotta and spinach shell pasta
Baked ricotta and spinach shell pasta

Ricotta and Spinach Filled Pasta Shells

Course: Entree, VegetarianCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

25

minutes
Baking time

20

mins
Resting time

5

mins
Total time

1

hour 

These jumbo ricotta and spinach-filled pasta shells lie on a blanket of fresh homemade tomato sauce, are covered with mozzarella, and baked to perfection.

Ingredients

  • Tomato sauce
  • 1 onion

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 10 fresh field tomatoes (or 3 cups of tomato puree)

  • 10 fresh basil leaves

  • 1/2 teaspoon dehydrated oregano

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Ricotta and spinach filling
  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1-500 gram package frozen spinach

  • 1-454 gram package ricotta cheese

  • 3 egg yolks

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Other ingredients
  • 20 jumbo shells (cooked al-dente as per direction)

  • 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • Tomato sauce
  • Finely chop the onion and garlic.
  • If using fresh tomatoes, blend them to a fine puree.
  • In a medium sized pot, heat the oil and cook the onions and garlic till soft – about 3-4 mins.
  • Add the tomato puree, basil, dehydrated oregano, and continue to cook for about 20 mins. If you use store-bought tomato puree, reduce the cooking time to 10 mins. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Ricotta and spinach filling
  • Thaw the spinach.
  • In a medium pan, heat the oil and cook the garlic till it starts to brown.
  • Add the thawed spinach to the pan and cook for about 2 mins.
  • Let the spinach cool and come to room temperature.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix everything to combine.
  • Add the cooled spinach to the bowl and mix well so that the spinach and ricotta are well combined.
  • Assembling the shells
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  • Pour half the tomato sauce into the dish.
  • Take one of the shells, and using a spoon, fill the shell with the ricotta and spinach filling. Place the shell on top of the tomato sauce.
  • Fill all of the 20 shells and place into the baking dish.
  • Cover the shells with the remaining half of the tomato sauce.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the tomato sauce.
  • Bake for about 20 mins or until you see the tomato sauce bubbling from the sides.
  • If the cheese is not browned, broil for about 3-5 mins keeping an eye on the dish. You do not want to burn the cheese.
  • Let rest for about 5 mins then serve with a side of green salad or garlic bread or both.

– Check out other Entree recipes here.

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