Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
on Oct 10, 2017, Updated Jul 20, 2023
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Cheesy and satisfying, this is a great alternative to tomato-based baked pasta dishes.
A creamy, cheesy stuffed pasta shells recipe is a great thing to have in your arsenal. It’s one of the ultimate comfort foods, and this one is flecked with pretty green bits of fresh spinach. It’s been a really long time since I’ve made or eaten stuffed shells, and once the idea of them ambled through my brain, it stuck. A craving that needed to be itched for sure.
Cheese Sauce for Stuffed Shells
The filling is laced with shredded fontina, with great smooth and creamy body, and a delicate tartness. This is also a wonderful cheese to incorporate into your lasagna, pizza, and hot dip recipes.
Then the rich sauce gets lovely soft flavor from slightly sweet and mellow gouda. Gouda is a great cheese to have on hand for everything from grilled cheeses sandwiches to shredding over chili, and it’s one of the first to go on a cheese board with its mild, very accessible flavor.
Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells: Cheesy and satisfying, this is a great alternative to tomato-based baked pasta dishes.Tweet This
I would also try making these pasta shells again with a layer of chunky tomato sauce underneath the cheese sauce, which would be result in a more saucy dish all around, in a great way. The cheese sauce should always be on top in my opinion, so you get that bubbling, melty upper layer.
Interestingly, though, I made a version of this recipe with a smaller amount of thicker sauce (just about half of the milk and half-and-half), and when they cooled to room temperature they were delightfully easy to pick up by hand. For the right crowd, I think these would be an insanely great appetizer or picnic offering. I would happily pick these up one at a time and shovel them in. (Ok, I did happily pick them up one at a time and shovel them in).
What to Serve with Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells:
- Best Garlic Bread Ever
- Mixed Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
- Braised Baby Artichokes with Leeks and Capers
- Light Green Crunchy Salad
- Endive, Arugula and Orange Salad
More Baked Pasta Recipes:
- Spinach Goat Cheese Baked Pasta with Sunflower Seeds
- Cheesy White and Green Spinach Lasagna
- Baked Tortellini
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Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells
- kosher salt to taste
- ¾ pound dried jumbo shells about 30 shells
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups chopped baby spinach
- 2 cups (16 ounces) ricotta cheese preferably fresh
- 1 cup (4 ounces) grated fontina cheese
- ¾ cup whole milk divided
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup half-and half
- 1 cup (4 ounces) grated gouda cheese
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 6 large leaves fresh basil very thinly sliced (julienned) – about 1/4 cup
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the jumbo shells according to package directions (there should be a set of instructions for cooking them for a shorter time, if they will be baked later. If not, cook them for 3 minutes less than the full cooking time). Drain the shells and rinse them with cold water in a colander or strainer. Set aside.
- Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta, fontina, 1/4 cup whole milk, and oregano, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine well.
- Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until golden. Add the half-and-half and the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and stir often until the mixture just starts to come to a simmer. Turn the head to low, and add the gouda a handful at a time, stirring just until each batch is melted. Stir in the red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
- Spoon a thin layer of the gouda cheese sauce into the bottom of a shallow 3-quart baking dish (a 9×13-inch pan works well). Use a spoon or your fingers to stuff the cooked shells with the spinach-ricotta mixture, dividing it evenly between the shells. Line them up neatly in the prepared pan, following the shape of the pan. Give the gouda cheese sauce another good stir, then pour it slowly and evenly over the stuffed shells.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the heat up to 475°F and continue to bake for about another 10 minutes, until the top turns golden brown and everything is lovely and bubbling. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the basil, if desired, before serving.