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Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells are fun because you can stuff them with so many things and they work wonderfully as an appetizer or a main course.  

Serve 1 as an appetizer and 2 to 3 as part of the main course.  This is a vegetarian version of the Crab and Ricotta stuffed shells.  I’m presenting this with a béchemel sauce, but you can easily change this out to something else like a Marinara, an Alfredo or even a Fra diavlo if you want something more spicy.   You can also make this recipe with Cannelloni instead of the shells. You really can’t go wrong, it’s ricotta, it’s stuffing, it’s baked. Mmmmm, mangia!

Prep, Cook, Servings

Prep: 90 min

Cook: 20 min

Servings: 12 shells


1 box (8 ounces) cannelloni or manicotti pasta (about 12 shells) 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling 1 egg yolk 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 4 tbs Butter 1 head garlic chopped 2 bags of Spinach (6-8oz bags?) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper Bechamel Sauce (note: Sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance) 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 4 cups whole milk, warmed 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper


For the Shells: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to directions on the box.

NOTE: Carefully remove the pasta from the water, they split easily when cooked.

For the Stuffing: In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic. Add the spinach approx. 1/2 bag at a time and cook down. Approx. 4 minutes for all.

In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 3/4 cup Parmesan, egg yolk, basil, spinach, salt, and pepper. Using an espresso spoon, fill the cannelloni with the crab mixture and place in a buttered baking dish.

If preparing in advance, cover and place in the refrigerator.

Béchamel Sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, toss in the garlic and cook for approx. 1 minute. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick, smooth, and creamy, about 10 minutes (do not allow the sauce to boil).

Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and pepper. If necessary, saute a little more garlic in butter and add to the sauce.

To Serve: PreHeat Oven to 350 Degrees.

Top the filled cannelloni with the Bechamel Sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake until bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.


The béchemel sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool and then cover and refrigerate.

You can cook and stuff the shells up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. You may need to add an additional 5 minutes to the baking time.


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