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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

You really can’t ever go wrong with stuffed shells.  I’ve made several varieties and they have all been delicious.  These were particularly flavorful and maybe my favorite so far (but don’t make me pick, okay?)  The Italian sausage really put these over the top.  Actually though, I think my favorite thing about this recipe was the use of chopped tomatoes instead of jarred marinara sauce for topping the shells.  So often, pasta sauce can overpower whatever you put it on and your whole dish ends up tasting just like the sauce – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’d like to taste more flavors than that.  These tomatoes were just right.  They tasted great with the shells, and added a nice pop of color to the dish as well.

My main gripe with this was that the original recipe called for either 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach OR 10 oz. fresh spinach.  REALLY?  I honestly don’t know how those can be considered equivalent.  I bought a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach, chopped up two large mounds of it, and still had at least a third of the bag left.  If I had used the whole thing, I would probably rename this recipe “Spinach, with a little bit of sausage and pasta on the side”.  I think frozen chopped spinach would be fine, but if you’re using fresh, I would definitely use less than 10 oz.  I think the amount I used was just about right.  This makes a lot of food, so be prepared to have leftovers (which are great) or freeze some.  I made three 8×8-inch trays; one for us and two for my little college bro :)  

Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells
1 12-oz. package jumbo pasta shells
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese
6-7 oz. fresh spinach, chopped OR 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta shells according to package directions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks.  Cook until the sausage is completely cooked through and no pink remains, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, ricotta, spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, basil, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.  Stir together to combine.  Add the cooked sausage mixture to the bowl and stir until evenly mixed.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spread a thin layer of the chopped tomatoes in the baking dishes (either three 8×8″ pans, or one 9×13″ and one 8×8″).  Stuff each shell with some of the sausage and cheese mixture, and arrange in the baking dishes, open side up.  Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.

Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling.  Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake, uncovered, for 10 more minutes.  

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

  • I have a recipe that is almost the exact same and it rocks!! I love these and they are just as good the next day..

  • brannyboilsover

    Absolutely beautiful! I may try a vegetarian version of this.

  • Wow, that sounds amazing!

  • oneordinaryday

    Making me hungry just looking at the pictures.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • I just had sausage today. It is one of my favorites. I usually have it with rice.

  • Looks mouth-watering! I will have to make it as I think my kids would eat it w/spinach and sausage in it… total YUM to me!

  • Jennifer

    I made these last night and they were great! Served 5 with tons of leftovers. Everyone loved them! I substituted Hot Italian Turkey Sausage and part skim ricotta to make them a little lower in fat but they were still wonderful. I can’t wait to heat them up for lunch!

  • Yum! I made these last night and they were a hit! Definitely going on my rotation…

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  • kara

    OMG, these are sooo good!

  • Halidom

    Have you ever tried beetroot leaves, They taste exactly like English spinach.

  • Annie


  • Katie

    This dish is DELICIOUS! I made a 9×13 dish for my friend who just had a baby and kept an 8×8 dish for us. My husband and 4 year old son loved it, too!

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  • marilyn

    This was a great meal! I made it last night and was very pleased. Thanks for another great recipe :)

  • These look absolutely delicious! I just posted a recipe today for sausage meatballs. but this looks divine!

  • Sarah

    I made these about two weeks ago and my husband and I both loved them. Excellent recipe.

  • Haley

    I made these tonight for dinner and they turned out delicious! An easy dish to make with great taste! Thanks again for sharing such a great recipe :)

  • this looks super yummy…thanks for sharing!
    Cathy B. @ brightbakes

  • You know? You really CANN’T go wrong with stuffed shells. These look delicious. I might tweak dinner tonight. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Shannon

    This was a really great recipe! I just made it last night. It does make a large amount as you said, but it makes it so worthwhile when you can freeze leftovers (something I’m thinking about since we have twins on the way!).

  • angela

    YUM YUM YUM. My boyfriend is a HUGE picky eater. He LOVED these stuffed shells. I replaced ricotta with cottage cheese, added one more egg, mozzarella in the mix, and pasta sause on top. mouth watering good.

  • Amanda

    Annie – Your recipes are making my family think I am a 5 star chef! Lots of your food is making it’s way to our family Christmas table – these shells included! Thanks so much for sharing your love of food with all of us. Merry

  • lisa

    This was FANTASTIC!! I did use 10 oz fresh spinach, and it mixed in perfectly. I actually put it in with the ricotta and realized I hadn’t chopped it (try stirring that! lol) and took my kitchen shears out and went to town. While cutting, it mixed in well with the cheese and once I added the warm sausage, it really stirred in well. I’m glad I used the full 10 oz.. we love spinach!

    Thanks for sharing a great recipe!! I’ll bet the leftovers will be even better!

  • Kristin

    I just made this last weekend, It is so good!!! Thanks Annie:)

  • Jen P

    These are in the oven as I type! I doubled this recipe for a meal swap! It worked perfectly!

  • Jenn

    Made these tonight the kids loved them so good thanks for sharing

  • Making this tonight, switching out the spinach for kale because I am pregnant and craving kale lol.

  • Caitlin

    In the oven right now! I didn’t read all the way through the directions though and added the rest of the parmesan on top of the tomatoes before putting in the oven. I doubt it’ll make too much of a difference though. Hubby and I are excited to try it!

  • Amber

    They’re in the oven right now! This is the second time making them and they were amazing last time, even great reheated. The only thing is that both times, there are always a couple of shells left after all of the filling is used.

  • ME Hunt

    Made these once for my husband and were a huge hit. Now want to make for guests coming this weekend. Can I make ahead and refrigerate a day or two?

  • Annie