Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

4.87 from 30 votes
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Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with spinach and mozzarella create a restaurant-worthy dinner. Impressive enough for entertaining, and make-ahead friendly. Ricotta stuffed shells being lifted out of the pan by a golden serving spoon

These ricotta stuffed shells will be met with clean plates and requests for seconds.

The flavors are decidedly Mediterranean, which I especially love this time of year. (The sauce is quite similar to the one in this reader-favorite Salmon Skillet.)

In fact, the first time I tested this recipe, my husband and I stood at the stovetop eating them right out of the pan. (And as one may guess, little leftovers remained.) 

Their wide appeal stem from a comforting combination of universally-adored ingredients like pasta, ricotta, and mozzarella. To balance the dish, a mix of wholesome ingredients like spinach and sun-dried tomatoes bring the dish to life.

Compared to many creamy stuffed shell recipes you’ll find online, this one has a more wholesome profile. It includes:

  • One whole (10-oz.) bag of frozen spinach, which slips a full serving of veggies into every portion.
  • Simple, from-scratch ingredients to give you better results. (No jarred alfredo sauce or canned soup mixes in sight).

How to Make Ricotta Stuffed Shells

While the preparation may be a little more hands-on, the results are well worth it!

Plus, many of the recipe components are make-ahead friendly.Two stuffed shells on a white serving plate

The Ingredients

  • Shells: Look for a box of jumbo shells in the pasta aisle, which are the ideal size for stuffing.
    • It’s important to not cook the shells past al dente. They will continue cooking in the oven, so we don’t want to render them mushy!
  • Cheese: This recipe uses a magical blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan. It’s the perfect trio of melty goodness and distinct, cheesy flavor.
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Make sure you are using sun-dried tomatoes in oil. We actually use part of that infused oil to cook the aromatics.
  • Aromatics: A mix of shallots and plenty of garlic create the aromatic backbone of this dish.
  • Broth: Vegetable or chicken broth will work!
  • Half-and-half: To make the sauce extra creamy. You can also use heavy cream.
  • Spinach: You need to thaw and strain the spinach to remove as much moisture as possible. I do this by wrapping the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeezing it over the sink.
  • Spices: Italian seasoning adds herby flavor notes to the pasta.

The Directions

Step 1: Sauté Aromatics

Heat the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar in a large skillet over medium. Once hot, add shallots and garlic; cook 5 minutes, until soft.Shallots, garlic, and spices being sautéed in a tan pan

Step 2: Simmer Sauce

Add broth; bring mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the liquid slightly reduces.

Stir in half-and-half, Parmesan, seasonings, and sun-dried tomatoes; simmer for 4 to 5 more minutes.Half-and-half and sun-dried tomatoes being added to pan, and sauce being simmered

Step 3: Prepare Ricotta Mixture

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, and Parmesan; stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.Ricotta cheese being mixed with spinach and Parmesan in a large clear mixing bowl

Step 4: Stuff Shells and Bake

Fill each cooked pasta shell with 1 heaping Tablespoon of the ricotta mixture.

Pour half of the sun-dried tomato sauce into a 9×13-inch baking pan. Arrange stuffed shells in baking pan over sauce. Spoon remaining sun-dried tomato sauce overtop, and finish with mozzarella.Shells being stuffed with ricotta and spinach mixture

Cover with foil and bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Garnish ricotta stuffed shells with parsley or basil, if you wish!Ricotta stuffed shells in topped with sun-dried tomato sauce and mozzarella in a baking dish

Expert Tips for Making Stuffed Shells:

  • Don’t cook the shells past al dente. They should still be somewhat firm to the touch. They will become softer as they bake in the oven.
    • Also, if you’re boiling the shells in advance, lightly drizzle them with olive oil after they’re drained to prevent sticking.
  • Use whole milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese over skim, which offer richer flavor and a creamier consistency.
  • Skip the pre-shredded bags of mozzarella and grate your own instead. The pre-grated cheeses tend to be coated with anti-caking agents, and do not melt as smoothly.

Serving Suggestions

Since this dish is on the richer side, I love serving it with a vibrant, fresh salad. Here are some of my favorite options:

Single serving of stuffed shells on a white speckled dinner plate

Make-Ahead and Storage Tip

  • Make-Ahead: The shells can be boiled 1 day ahead. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent them from sticking, and refrigerate in an airtight container. 
    • The whole dish can be assembled and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead, as well. Just cover tightly with foil and remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.
  • Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat: Place in oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350ºF until the shells are warm. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave.

Can you Freeze Stuffed Shells?

Ricotta stuffed shells can be frozen for up to 3 months!

  • Assemble the recipe as written, then cover tightly with plastic wrap followed by foil. (The double insulation helps lock in moisture.) Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
    • If you don’t want to tie up one of your baking pans, use a disposable aluminum 9×13-inch baking pan.
  • When ready to eat, you can bake the shells from frozen or thaw them first.
    • If reheating from frozen, remove the plastic wrap but reapply the foil. Add an extra 30 minutes to the covered baking time.
    • If baking from thawed, add an extra 10 minutes to the covered baking time.

Sun-dried tomato sauce being poured over stuffed shells in a baking dish

More Favorite Pasta Recipes

One Pan Creamy Tomato Pasta

Creamy Shrimp Pasta with Corn and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Weeknight Mediterranean Pasta

Creamy Mushroom Pasta (Vegan)

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

 

4.87 from 30 votes

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with spinach and mozzarella create a restaurant-worthy dinner. Impressive enough for entertaining, and make-ahead friendly. 
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Large skillet
  • Stock pot or Dutch oven
  • 3-quart baking dish (such as 9x13)

Ingredients  

  • 23 to 25 jumbo pasta shells
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or sweet onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. cracked black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup slivered oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, plus 2 tablespoons oil from the jar
  • 1 (16-oz.) bag frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups (16-oz.) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
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Instructions 

  • Heat the oven to 375ºF. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells to the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, and transfer shells to a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes in a large skillet over medium. Once hot, add shallots and garlic; cook 3 to 5 minutes, until soft.
    Add broth; bring mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the liquid slightly reduces.
    Stir in half-and-half or heavy cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan, Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes; gently simmer mixture for 4 to 5 minutes. (The sauce will be thin, however it will reduce while the shells bake.)
  • Place thawed spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze over the sink to remove as much liquid as possible. Place spinach in a large mixing bowl along with ricotta, remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp. each of salt and black pepper; mix well to combine.
    Fill each cooked pasta shell with ricotta mixture.
  • Pour half of the sun-dried tomato sauce into a 3-quart baking dish (such as a 9x13). Arrange stuffed shells over the sauce, and spoon remaining sauce overtop. Scatter with mozzarella cheese.
    Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 15 more minutes. Let sit 5 minutes, then serve.

Notes

  • Make-Ahead: The whole dish can be assembled and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead. Just cover tightly with foil and remove it from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.
  • Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat: Place in oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350ºF until the shells are warm. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 4shells | Calories: 575kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 900mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 9g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!

 

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19 Comments

  1. Amina Mckinney says:

    5 stars
    Followed recipe to a T and it came out great. I may prep the day before next time 😊.

  2. Rosealee says:

    5 stars
    These turned out great thank you!