Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage

Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage is one of my favorite restaurant-quality Italian meals to make at home.

The robust flavors in this stuffed shells recipe come from spinach, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese and sausage.  Just pour red sauce over the top, pop in the oven and a great family meal comes together!

spinach, cheese and sausage stuffed shells covered in red pasta sauce in a white 9x13 pan

Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach

Sometimes I crave a hearty and flavor-filled pasta meal and these stuffed shells hit the spot every time.  They are loaded with mozzarella and ricotta cheese making every bite rich and cheesy.  Spinach is another delicious filling because the vegetable accent goes well in this main dish.

Spread a red pasta sauce over the top of the stuffed shells and all of the flavors are tied together for a perfect pasta casserole.  Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach is great for guests at a dinner party a family meal or a Lenten casserole.

This stuffed shell recipe is one of the first meals that I made as an adult.  My mom gave me this recipe and I love how it only takes a few basic ingredients, but the flavors are impressive.  This meal feels fancy, but can be made at home by a beginner level cook.

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Stuffed Shells With Sausage

This dish is comfort food at its finest as every bite is cheesy, juicy and flavor-filled.  These shells are so easy to customize by adding sausage crumbles.

These cheesy stuffed shells make a great complete meal without meat, but they can be made heartier by adding sausage.  Mild palates enjoy plain sausage, Italian Sausage is my favorite, and spicy sausage can easily be used if that’s your preference

Crumble sausage into very small pieces to mix best with the cheese and spinach.  When adding sausage no other adjustments need to be made to the recipe.  Shells will just be a bit more full than when preparing the recipe without sausage.

Close up of stuffed shells with spinach and sausage

These Cream Cheese & Beef Stuffed Shells and Mexican Stuffed Shells look like a great recipe to try too!

How to Make Stuffed Shells with Cheese, Spinach & Sausage

  1. Cook shells in well-salted water
  2. Brown sausage if using
  3. Mix together stuffing ingredients very well
  4. Use a tablespoon to stuff shells
  5. Spread one, even layer of stuffed shells in greased casserole dish
  6. Pour red pasta sauce over the top of shells
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 350ºF until heated through

Tips for Making Cheesy Stuffed Shells

  • If using sausage crumble into very small, even-sized pieces
  • Mix the stuffing ingredients well to make sure flavors are evenly distributed in every shell and every bite
  • Run cooked shells under cold water to cool more quickly and avoid burning your fingers while stuffing
  • Fill shells in the same pan with equal amounts of stuffing
  • A single layer of shells cooks best in a baking dish
  • Broken shells and stuffing can be layered in a small dish or in the corner of a baking dish – they will still taste great, but won’t look as nice as the rest of the dish
  • Red sauce can be added when reheating shells if necessary
  • Store shells in the refrigerator
  • I use a 9 x 13 and a 9 x 9 baking dish for this recipe
  • 25 shells fit in 9 x 13 dish and remaining shells fit in 9 x 9 dish
9 x 13 pan of sausage, spinach, mozzarella and ricotta stuffed shells with pasta sauce

Can You Freeze Stuffed Shells?

Yes!  I have often frozen extra stuffed shells in individual serving sized freezer containers.  A container can be defrosted for a quick meal and reheated in the microwave.  I typically cover the shells with a paper towel to prevent the sauce splattering and reheat in the microwave.  Sometimes more sauce will need to be added to prevent the shells from drying out while being reheated.

Sometimes I make this large pasta recipe for our small family to have extra freezer meals.  Be sure that shells are allowed to cool before placing in the freezer.  Freezing hot shells will prevent proper and even freezing.

An entire pan of stuffed shells can be frozen before or after baking as long as all of the ingredients in the shells are precooked.  Be sure to wrap the pan tightly to prevent freezer burn.  More sauce may need to be added to prevent the shells from becoming dry if they are reheated.

Should I Defrost Frozen Stuffed Shells Before Baking

Frozen stuffed shells will reheat more evenly and are less likely to dry out when they are defrosted.  While stuffed shells don’t have to be defrosted it will take longer to reheat them and more pasta sauce will likely be needed to reheat when taken directly from the freezer.

Shells will also reheat more evenly and have the best quality when there is a single layer in a pan of dish.

What Goes With Cheesy Stuffed Shells?

Breadsticks or garlic bread and salad make a complete meal served with stuffed shells.  A glass of wine can pair well unless you want to save the calories for dessert.  This is our favorite chocolate cake to make for dessert with cheesy stuffed shells.

This menu makes a perfect make at home birthday meal.  A fine celebration on a budget that lacks nothing but the drive to the restaurant.

How Many Stuffed Shells are in a 12 Ounce Box?

I always use a regular size box of stuffed shells, typically the store brand or Barilla.  There are enough shells when stuffed very full to fill a 9 x 13 baking dish and a 9 x 9 baking dish.  I put 25 shells in the 9 x 13 dish and the remaining shells in another baking dish.

If the shells are not filled very full and packed very tightly together they may be able to fit in a 9 x 13 baking dish or a slightly larger lasagna pan.

collage of spinach, cheese and sausage stuffed shells

Other Family Meal Ideas with Pasta

Printable Recipe for Cheesy Stuffed Shells

Cheesy stuffed shells with spinach, mozzarella and ricotta in the center

Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage

Servings 8 people
Jennifer @ Plowing Through Life
Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Sausage is one of my favorite restaurant-quality Italian meals to make at home.  Stuffed shells feel fancy, but they are easy to make.  The robust flavors in these shells come from spinach, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese and sausage.  Just pour red sauce over the top, pop in the oven and a great family meal comes together!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box large shells cooked
  • 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach defrosted
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 pound Italian sausage cooked and finely crumbled, optional
  • 24 ounce jar red pasta sauce

Instructions
 

  • Cook shells in well-salted water according to directions on the box.
  • If using sausage, brown while pasta cooks.
  • Mix together stuffing ingredients very well
  • Use a tablespoon to stuff shells. Spread one, even layer of stuffed shells in a greased casserole dish. This recipe makes a 9 x 13 and a 9 x 9 dish full for me.
  • Pour red pasta sauce over the top of shells. Bake for 30 minutes at 350ºF until dish is warmed through.
  • Serve immediately and store in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • If using sausage crumble into very small, even-sized pieces
  • Mix the stuffing ingredients well to make sure flavors are evenly distributed in every shell and every bite
  • Run cooked shells under cold water to cool more quickly and avoid burning your fingers while stuffing
  • Fill shells in the same pan with equal amounts of stuffing
  • A single layer of shells cooks best in a baking dish
  • Broken shells and stuffing can be layered in a small dish or in the corner of a baking dish – they will still taste great, but won’t look as nice as the rest of the dish
  • Red sauce can be added when reheating shells if necessary
  • Store shells in the refrigerator
  • I use a 9 x 13 and a 9 x 9 baking dish for this recipe

Nutrition

Calories: 645kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 34gFat: 38gSaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 1285mgPotassium: 741mgFiber: 4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 5139IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 469mgIron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Plowing Through Life” is not a dietitian or nutrition professional. Any nutritional information shared is an estimate and can vary greatly depending on specific products are used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator of your choice.

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