Sausage Stuffed Shells with Spinach

This easy stuffed shells recipe with sausage, spinach, tomato, and ricotta cheese will make just about anyone reach in for more. Jump to the Sausage Stuffed Shells Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.

Sausage Stuffed Shells Recipe with Spinach

The first time we made these, I left the table for a minute or two and came back to find that Adam had single handedly finished at least half of the shells. It was at that moment that we both knew these had to be shared with you.

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How to Make Sausage Stuffed Shells with Spinach

These stuffed shells are pretty simple to make and are perfect for making in advance. (We’ve shared lots of tips below for making them ahead).

How to Make Sausage Stuffed Shells with Spinach

The meat filling is made with sausage, spinach, tomato, and ricotta cheese. We used pork sausage in the photos, but a chicken or turkey sausage also work. After browning the sausage, we throw in a can of diced tomatoes and some thawed spinach that has been squeezed dry.

The filling is made from sausage, spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and ricotta cheese.

Once the mixture cooks down a bit, ricotta cheese is stirred in to make it creamy.

Add ricotta cheese to the filling to make it creamy.

Then we generously fill cooked jumbo shells, scatter with cheese, and then bake until the cheese has melted and the tips of the shells begin to brown.

Make Ahead Tips

  • The filling can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags to store the filling. To thaw, leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Baked shells freeze well. Let them cool completely on a rack before freezing, and then wrap it well with foil (we use two layers). Defrost the frozen shells overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until heated through.
  • Filled and unbaked shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cover the unbaked stuffed shells with foil then bake the next day in a 350 degree F oven.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: These fun and easy Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Shells, a riff on our favorite hot wing recipe.

Baked Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Spinach

Recipe updated, originally posted December 2011. Since posting this in 2011, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Sausage Stuffed Shells Recipe with Spinach

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

The filling for these easy stuffed shells holds up well. These double as dinner or finger food. The sausage you choose is up to you. Chicken or turkey sausage instead of pork sausage would be great. If you do choose a sausage that’s lower in fat, add a little oil to the pan before browning. When making stuffed shells, add a few more dried pasta shells to the water than you will need since some will rip. The filling for this recipe should fill about 16 shells.

Makes approximately 5 servings

You Will Need

20 jumbo dried pasta shells

1 pound fresh pork sausage, casings removed (see note)

3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (about 1 1/4 cups)

4 ounces ricotta cheese (about 1/2 cup)

2 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 1/2 cup)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Warm marinara sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions

  • Prepare Shells
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta shells then follow package directions for cooking the shells. Drain, and then rinse the shells with cold water.

    Meanwhile, heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. As the sausage cooks, use a wooden spoon to break the sausage up into small pieces in the pan.

    Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, as well as the thawed and ringed out spinach. Cook until heated through and liquid reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat then stir in the ricotta cheese. Taste for seasoning then adjust with salt and pepper to taste.

    • To Finish
    • Fill each shell with sausage filling and arrange into the baking dish. Scatter mozzarella cheese on top. Bake until the tips of the shells begin to brown and the cheese has melted, about 25 minutes. Serve with a warm marinara sauce (optional).

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Depending on the store, you can find bulk sausage. If you cannot and instead buy sausage formed into links, remove the casings by cutting a slit down the sausage and pulling the casing away from the meat.Remove Sausage Casings
  • Cooked fresh spinach can be substituted for frozen. Cook about 1 pound of fresh spinach until wilted, squeeze out excess moisture and add to the filling.
  • The filling can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags. To thaw, leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Baked shells freeze well. Let them cool completely on a rack before freezing, and then wrap it well with foil (we use two layers). Defrost the frozen shells overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until heated through.
  • Filled and unbaked shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cover the unbaked stuffed shells with foil then bake the next day in a 350 degree F oven.
  • Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 625 / Protein 33 g / Carbohydrate 32 g / Dietary Fiber 7 g / Total Sugars 8 g / Total Fat 30 g / Saturated Fat 13 g / Cholesterol 86 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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155 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Ruthann April 18, 2017, 11:45 am

    Wonderful recipe that adapts well to vegetarian. Substitute Morningstar Farms sausage patties crumbled for the meat. sausage. I love onions and added some. Used the fresh spinach option.

    Reply
  • Melanie April 14, 2017, 5:20 pm

    This recipe is a keeper! A great make-ahead dish and not too heavy.

    Reply
  • Shauna January 22, 2017, 8:09 pm

    absolutely DELICIOUS! this recipe was nice & easy (even for a lazy cook such as myself). used both sweet and hot sausage to shake it up a bit. thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Patricia Henderson December 19, 2016, 12:45 pm

    I made these a few months ago, they were so good I did them 2 days in a row, my question is – can you make these ahead of time and freeze and if so at what point do you stop, before or after baking ?

    Reply
    • Joanne December 23, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Hi Patricia, I have just updated the recipe with the answer to your question (sorry it was not there to begin with). Here’s what I have added:

      The filling can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags to store the filling. To thaw, leave it overnight in the refrigerator. Baked shells freeze well. Let them cool completely on a rack before freezing, and then wrap it well with foil (we use two layers). Defrost the frozen shells overnight in the refrigerator and then bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until heated through. Filled and unbaked shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cover the unbaked stuffed shells with foil then bake the next day in a 350 degree F oven.

      Reply
      • Nancy December 23, 2016, 2:31 pm

        What is the reserved 1/4 cup of pasta water for? It’s never referred to again in the recipe.

        I have them filled and ready to bake tomorrow. I plan on keeping them covered, then removing the foil to brown slightly.

        Reply
        • Joanne December 23, 2016, 2:33 pm

          Hi Nancy, Sorry about that. This was a mistake, you do not need to reserve the water.

          Reply
  • Rebecca December 17, 2016, 5:21 am

    If I use fresh spinach, do you use it as is or do I need to blanch it and dry it? If I do blanch it, will I need more than what the recipe calls for? Also, would it be best to coverit with foil?

    Reply
    • Joanne December 23, 2016, 2:14 pm

      Hi Rebecca, You can use fresh spinach. You will need about 1 pound of spinach leaves. Cook them until wilted and then squeeze out excess moisture before adding to the filling.

      Reply
  • Todd December 10, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Do you cook the shells all you way? Why put the shells in ice water?

    Reply
    • Joanne December 23, 2016, 2:14 pm

      This stops them from overcooking and makes them a little easier to fill. You could also just rinse under cool water after cooking.

      Reply
  • Karen November 17, 2016, 10:14 am

    I make this all the time. My family loves it.

    Reply
  • Sara March 22, 2016, 7:12 pm

    I love these recipe!the creamy flavor of all the ingredients combined tops it off my family loves it and I do to hands down a 5 star meal???????????

    Reply
  • Tine August 29, 2015, 11:30 am

    What is a good replacement for the ricotta?

    Reply
    • Joanne October 16, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Cottage cheese is a poplar substitute for ricotta cheese.

      Reply
    • Katie B. March 14, 2016, 10:16 am

      This is an older comment but I use CREAM CHEESE! I’ve made these a dozen times.

      Reply
    • Lee Anne October 16, 2016, 11:18 am

      My family doesn’t like any kind of creamy cheese,so I use Mozzarella cheese.

      Reply
    • Jill March 18, 2017, 10:29 am

      I use goat cheese. Delicious!

      Reply
  • Bonnie Coey June 13, 2015, 7:19 pm

    love these! Making them for the second time tonite! I give it 5 stars!

    Reply
  • Kirsten Stevenson March 8, 2015, 10:55 pm

    My husband and I made this for supper tonight. It was delicious!

    Reply
  • Carolyn February 21, 2015, 12:55 pm

    Do you not drain the sausage before adding the other ingredients?

    Reply
    • Adam March 2, 2015, 2:09 pm

      If you notice a ridiculous amount of excess fat, it wouldn’t hurt to drain it. Otherwise, we just continue on with the recipe.

      Reply
  • Chris January 23, 2015, 2:59 pm

    This is my go to recipe for stuffed shells. Everyone raves about them. I add bacon bits too! Glad I finally put it in my reading list, so I have it on hand! I give it

    Reply
  • Paul November 26, 2014, 6:01 am

    Lovely recipe and the step by step photos are great. Definetly trying this out 🙂

    Reply
  • MARIA September 27, 2014, 2:52 pm

    LOOK SO YUMMY. LOVE THE COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS

    Reply

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