Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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This Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells recipe is decadent Italian comfort food made extra delicious and satisfying. You’ll find a creamy ricotta filling made flavorful and hearty with cubes of ham and bright baby spinach. Tuck it into gluten-free pasta and cover it with tangy sauce and plenty of cheese for an easy dinner the entire family will love!

A portion of spinach stuffed shells is lifted out of the pan.

Why You’ll Love This Spinach Stuffed Shells Recipe

  • Cuisine Inspiration: Italian
  • Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop, Oven
  • Dietary Info: Gluten-free option
  • Skill Level: Easy

This recipe for spinach stuffed shells makes a cheesy and cozy meal with veggies, ham, sauce, and tender pasta to wrap it all up. Sure, it looks like a meal that can feed a crowd, but when my guys gather around the table, they can pretty much polish off the entire pan. And I love that they don’t even realize they are happily gobbling leafy green veggies!

The shells keep well, making this a great make-ahead option, and you can customize it to your tastes. Here’s why you’ll love it:

  • Easily gluten-free. This classic recipe for stuffed shells can easily be made gluten-free when you use gluten-free shells. The rest of the ingredients are naturally gluten free.
  • Adaptable. Ham and spinach stuffed shells are just as good without the ham for a vegetarian version! You can try a different sauce or meat, or play around with other ingredients with good results. See some suggestions lower down.
  • Filling. Make a meal out of ham and spinach stuffed shells – just add a salad and dinner is set!
A fork digs into a plate of spinach stuffed shells.

Recipe Ingredients

I’ve outlined the ingredients you’ll need to make stuffed shells with spinach. Don’t forget to check the recipe card for the full ingredient amounts.

For the sauce:

  • Olive Oil: I always use extra virgin olive oil!
  • Onion: A red or yellow onion works well.
  • Garlic: Add more garlic if you love garlic.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Grab a can of crushed tomatoes, “fire roasted” if you like smoky flavor.
  • Italian Seasoning: If you don’t have Italian seasoning you can do a blend of equal amounts of dried oregano and basil.
  • Salt and Pepper: I use kosher salt and black pepper
Tomato sauce ingredients are shown: crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, salt and pepper, seasonings.

For the shells:

  • Pasta Shells: Use jumbo pasta shells, gluten free if needed, such as the Tinkyada brand.
  • Ricotta: Use part-skim ricotta cheese.
  • Baby Spinach: Or you can use regular spinach.
  • Ham This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover holiday ham.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Use shredded mozzarella. 
  • Fresh Parsley: For an optional garnish.
Ingredients for spinach stuffed shells are shown: shell pasta, ham, parmesan, mozzarella, spinach, ricotta, salt, and pepper.

How to Make Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells

You can get an idea of how to make these spinach and ricotta stuffed shells via my photos below. Find the detailed instructions in the recipe card lower down.

  • Saute vegetables. Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic.
  • Make sauce. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  • Simmer. Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Cook the pasta. Follow the package directions to cook the shells.
  • Prepare. Preheat the oven and grease a baking dish.
  • Make filling. Combine the ricotta, chopped spinach, ham, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  • Stuff. Pour about half of the sauce into the pan. Stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of filling.
  • Assemble. Place the shells side by side in the pan.
  • Finish. Top with remaining sauce.
  • Bake. Top the pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes.
  • Add cheese. Remove the foil and top with the mozzarella cheese then cook until the cheese is melted.
  • Serve. Cool the pan for 5 minutes, then garnish with parsley and parmesan to serve.
A spoon drizzles parmesan over a plate of spinach stuffed shells.

Tips for the Best Spinach Stuffed Shells

I’ve included a few things to keep in mind and variation suggestions as well if you want to adapt this stuffed shells recipe to your tastes:

Follow my tips below to help you make this dish:
  • Cook pasta to al dente. The shells will cook a bit more in the oven, so make sure not to overcook them. Boil the shells 1-2 minutes less than their suggested cooking time for the best results.
  • Don’t overcook. You don’t want to overcook a pasta casserole, especially if you use gluten-free pasta. Check to make sure that the cheese is melted and bubbling, then pull the pan from the oven so that it doesn’t dry out.
  • Let it rest. I find that pasta bakes benefit from a little rest out of the oven to let the filling set. Cool the pan for at least 5 minutes, and preferably a little longer.
  • Make it vegetarian. It’s beyond easy to make this a vegetarian spinach and ricotta stuffed shells! Simply omit the ham. I think you’ll find that the shells are still very flavorful and hearty. Alternatively, you could add some plant-based meat or sausage to the shells instead of the ham.
  • Add other vegetables. I like to keep it simple with spinach, however, you should feel free to throw in other vegetables such as arugula, mushrooms, red pepper, and zucchini.
  • Try a different sauce. Instead of the tomato sauce, you can try pesto, vodka sauce, or even creamy alfredo sauce.
  • Make ahead. This recipe is great to make ahead of time! Prepare the spinach stuffed shells as directed. Instead of baking them, cover the pan tightly with foil and store in the fridge for up to 2 days ahead of time. Bake the shells straight from the fridge – note that you will need to add a few minutes of cooking time.
A spoon starts to lift out a spinach stuffed shell from a pan of shells.

Proper Storage

These spinach stuffed shells keep well either in the fridge or the freezer. See how to store them below:

  • Fridge – Place the cooled shells in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freeze Cooked Stuffed Shells –  Place leftover cooked shells in an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Portion the cooked shells into individual containers for easy meal prep later if you wish. Thaw the shells in the fridge overnight, or bake them from frozen and increase the baking time accordingly. 
  • Freeze Unbaked Stuffed Shells – Assemble the casserole according to the recipe directions, but instead of baking, wrap it tightly in foil and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can bake the shells straight from frozen, adding an extra 30 minutes or so to the baking time, or thaw them overnight in the fridge before baking.
  • To Reheat – Place the shells in an oven-safe pan and heat in a 350ºF-oven for about 15 minutes, until warmed through. Or, reheat the shells in the microwave in 1-minute increments until hot.
A baked pan of spinach stuffed shells on a table with salt and pepper shakers.

What To Serve With Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

These hearty ham and spinach stuffed shells just need a glass of red wine and a fresh salad to turn them into dinner! Here are a few suggestions of what to serve with this cheesy casserole:

A side view of a pan of spinach stuffed shells topped with melted cheese.
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Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells

This Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells recipe is decadent Italian comfort food made extra delicious and satisfying. You'll find a creamy ricotta filling made flavorful and hearty with cubes of ham and bright baby spinach. Tuck it into gluten-free pasta and cover it with tangy sauce and plenty of cheese for an easy dinner the entire family will love!
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the sauce:

For the shells:

  • 24-30 jumbo pasta shells, gluten free if needed (two 8 oz. packages of large gluten free pasta shells such as the Tinkyada brand)
  • 15 ounces container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup diced ham (about 6 oz.)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 oz.)
  • fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Instructions

For the sauce:

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 3-5 minutes, until translucent and tender. Stir in the garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

For the stuffed shells:

  • Cook the shells to al dente according to package directions, drain, and allow to cool until they can be handled.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, chopped spinach, ham, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour about half of the sauce into the prepared baking dish.
  • Stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture and line them up side by side in the pan.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with non-stick spray, cover, and bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes, until heated through. Remove the foil and top with the mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Garnish with minced parsley if desired, then serve with additional parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.
Nutrition Facts
Ham and Spinach Stuffed Shells
Amount Per Serving (3 shells)
Calories 367 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 8g40%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 52mg17%
Sodium 911mg38%
Potassium 638mg18%
Carbohydrates 33g11%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 23g46%
Vitamin A 3341IU67%
Vitamin C 18mg22%
Calcium 433mg43%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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