We love these easy stuffed shells featuring sausage and spinach. Combining ground sausage (pork or chicken), spinach, ricotta cheese, and tomatoes creates such a tasty dish. Every person we have ever served these to has fallen in love.
Related: If you love stuffed shells recipes, try our cheesy veggie stuffed shells
How to Make the Best Sausage Stuffed Shells
When we first made these stuffed shells, I briefly stepped away from the table only to return and discover that Adam had already devoured at least half of the shells on his own. At that exact moment, we realized this recipe for stuffed shells must be shared with you.
These stuffed shells are remarkably easy to prepare and lend themselves well to being made in advance. We have included several helpful tips below for preparing them in advance:
- Choosing the right shells – Look for larger-sized shells and cook them in salted water. The cooking time can be found on the package (usually around 10 minutes).
- Reduce pasta cooking time – We suggest reducing the cooking time by a minute or two, resulting in somewhat undercooked shells. This is not an issue because they will turn out perfectly once they are filled with our sausage mixture and baked.
- Use your favorite sausage – The sausage filling is prepared using sausage, spinach, tomato, and ricotta cheese. In the photo below, we used pork sausage, but chicken or turkey sausage can also be used.
- Squeeze the spinach dry – After browning the sausage, we add diced tomatoes from a can and some thawed spinach that has been squeezed dry.
Once the sausage is cooked and the liquid in the pan has reduced slightly, we stir in ricotta cheese. The amount of ricotta used is less than when making cheese-stuffed shells. We like it this way since we want that sausage to really shine in these shells.
The final step involves filling each shell with the sausage mixture, sprinkling cheese on top, and baking until the cheese melts and the tips of the pasta shells turn golden brown.
Related: This stuffed shells recipe is featured in our list of 24 must-try pasta recipes
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.
Sausage Stuffed Shells
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.
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)
- Prepare Shells
1Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2Bring 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.
3Meanwhile, 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.
4Stir 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
1Fill 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.
- 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.