These ricotta, spinach and herb stuffed shells are one of our kids’ favorite dishes.  It may seem daunting when you read “stuffed”, but this dish comes together quickly.  Total prep time is about 30 minutes and total cook time is about 45 minutes.  Using fresh herbs, fresh (not frozen) spinach and homemade marinara sauce is what makes it so special. Of course, you can use a bottled marinara sauce to save time, but please only fresh basil, thyme and spinach.  You’ll be happy you used these ingredients. The recipe makes a big pan and the flavors only get better the next day, so if you want to make it a day ahead, all you have to do is gently warm in oven for 20-25 minutes in covered pan. Consider serving this with sheet pan roasted vegetables and a big leafy green salad.

Makes 4-5 portions

  • 12 oz jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T salted butter
  • 1 C white onion, chopped
  • 3 T minced fresh garlic
  • 3 C fresh organic baby spinach
  • 16 oz full-fat ricotta
  • 1 organic farm egg
  • 1/2 C fresh organic basil, chiffonade chop (plus 1/2 C for garnish)
  • 1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 T Italian blend dried spices
  • 1 C grated asiago or parmesan (plus 1/3 C for topping)
  • 1 C mozzarella, shredded (plus 1/2 C for topping)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1tsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 3 C homemade herb marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large saute pan on medium heat, add olive oil. Once hot, add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add minced garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Once garlic and onions are slightly softened, add the spinach and wilt for a minute or two. You don’t want to cook it all the way, so to keep the gorgeous green color. Remove pan from burner and let ingredients cool.  In a medium size mixing bowl, add in ricotta, egg, basil, thyme, dried Italian blend spices, asiago, mozzarella, lemon zest, salt, pepper and cooled spinach mixture. Mix well.  Prepare a lasagna pan (about 12″ X 8″ X 2″ deep) with about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom. Spread around so you can lay stuffed shells on top. This will keep shells from sticking.  You can rub a little on the edge of your pan as well.  Stuff each shell with 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons ricotta spinach mixture and sit in marinara, open side up.  Repeat and tuck shells snuggly into pan next to each other.  Once all shells are stuffed and pan is full, pour 2 to 2-1/2 cups marinara sauce on top of shells.  Top with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup asiago.  Cover pan with foil and place in oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, pull foil off and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until cheese turns a little brown.  Garnish with 1/2 cup of the remaining basil and more asiago if you’d like.