Ricotta cheese and pasta…is there a better combination? Ricotta cheese and spinach are stuffed inside of traditional pasta shells and are baked with lots of tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella cheese! Serve this with a side of salad and garlic bread and you will have a cozy Italian dinner any night of the week!
Servings: 6-8 pieces
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 60 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cups fresh spinach, thoroughly washed
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting the water
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1 package large pasta shells
- Water, for boiling
- 4 cups tomato sauce (jarred or homemade)
Begin by cooking the spinach. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and onion. Cook the onion until it have softened and has become translucent, but not browned, about 3-4 minutes. Once the onion has softened, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Next, add the spinach and mix to combine. Cook the mixture for about 2-3 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.
Place the spinach mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, squeeze and much liquid as you can out of the spinach mixture by pressing it between the palms of your hands. By removing the liquid, it will prevent the cheese mixture from becoming too wet. Once the liquid has been squeezed out from all the spinach, roughly chop the spinach into bite-sized pieces and place it back in the bowl.
Add the ricotta cheese, Parmigiano, cayenne, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella to the bowl with the spinach and mix to combine.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water has come to a boil, add 1-2 tablespoons of salt to the water followed by the pasta shells. Cook the pasta shells as directed on the package, minus 2 minutes. This will leave the pasta shells a bit al dente and will allow them to continue to finish cooking in the oven.
Once the pasta shells are cooked, drain them and rinse them with cold water until you are able to handle them.
Next, get ready to begin filling your shells. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large 9×13 inch casserole dish, spread 1 1/2 cup of tomato sauce evenly across the bottom of the dish. Next, fill each shell with two heaping tablespoons of the ricotta and spinach mixture (or less depending on the size of your shells) and add it to the dish. Continue this process until all the pasta shells are filled, or you run out of ricotta mixture.
Spread the rest of the tomato sauce evenly across the top of the pasta shells and then top the whole dish off with the mozzarella cheese.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 1 hour in the oven. Remove the tin foil after 45 minutes of cooking so that the cheese can get lightly browned on top of the casserole.
Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve this with a nice fresh salad and a side of garlic bread.