Pesto Stuffed Shells

$7.81 recipe / $1.56 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.96 from 23 votes
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Who doesn’t love cute little pasta bundles?? These Pesto Stuffed Shells remind me of little baby lasagnas that have yet to grow into their adult form. They have all the same goodies as a spinach lasagna, like ricotta, mozzarella, Italian herbs, and Parmesan, but are rolled into easy-to-portion pasta shells. And to make life easier, I used store-bought pesto for the filling, which takes care of all the seasoning needs in one swoop. So fast, so easy. And these little Pesto Stuffed Shells freeze beautifully, so don’t be afraid of the large batch size. simply let them cool completely after baking, transfer to a freezer safe container, and stash ’em in your freezer for later!

Originally posted 3-5-10, updated 9-17-17

A full pan of Baked Pesto Stuffed Shells

What Should I Serve with Stuffed Shells?

This is such a classic comfort meal that I suggest pairing it with something simple, like Homemade Garlic Bread and a simple side salad of baby greens and Italian Dressing. If you happen to have any leftover vegetables in your fridge (carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms) add those to your side salad for extra vegetable goodness!

How Many Pesto Stuffed Shells Does This Make?

This recipe made about 22 stuffed shells for me, but your distance may vary. I suggest boiling about 25 shells just in case you have extra filling or a couple of them rip during the stuffing process. I used about 2/3 of a 12oz. box of jumbo shells, which gave me 22 individual shells.

Can I Make Stuffed Shells in Advance?

Yes! If you want to assemble the stuffed shells the day before, refrigerate, then bake the next day, that will work just as well. You may need to add a few extra minutes onto the baking time, to account for the dish being chilled when it goes into the oven.

How Do You Freeze Pesto Stuffed Shells

I prefer to freeze my Pesto Stuffed Shells after baking. I divide them into single servings (about two stuffed shells each), chill them completely in the refrigerator first, then transfer to the freezer the next day. I like to use the small square Ziploc containers.

Close up of unbaked Pesto Stuffed Shells without sauce.

See this recipe used in my weekly meal prep.

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Pesto Stuffed Shells

4.96 from 23 votes
These easy Pesto Stuffed Shells are stuffed with two cheeses, pesto, and spinach. Perfect for meal prep or freezing portions for later!
Pesto Stuffed Shells are an easy and impressive dish that is a filling and flavorful alternative to a meat-heavy Italian meal. BudgetBytes.com
Servings 5 4 shells each
Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. frozen spinach, thawed ($0.85)
  • 15 oz. ricotta ($1.99)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella ($1.00)
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto ($0.85)
  • 1 large egg ($0.27)
  • 8 oz. jumbo pasta shells (about 22-25 shells) ($1.66)
  • 24 oz. pasta sauce ($1.19)

Instructions 

  • Make sure the spinach is completely thawed, then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible. Add the spinach to a large bowl with the ricotta, mozzarella, pesto, and egg. Stir until the ingredients are well combined, then refrigerate until it's ready to be used.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the jumbo shells. Cook the shells just until they're tender, making sure not to over cook the pasta. The longer the shells boil, the more likely they are to tear during the stuffing process. Drain the shells in a colander and then rinse briefly with cool water to make them cool enough to handle.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread about 1 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish.
  • One by one, stuff each shell with a couple tablespoons of the cheese, pesto, and spinach mixture. Place the shells in the casserole dish as you stuff them.
  • Once the shells are all stuffed, pour the remaining two cups of pasta sauce over top. Bake the shells for about 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges. Serve hot.

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Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 522.26kcalCarbohydrates: 54.4gProtein: 23.04gFat: 23.88gSodium: 1203.6mgFiber: 6g
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Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

Side shot of baked Pesto Stuffed Shells.

How to Make Pesto Stuffed Shells – Step By Step Photos

P Filling Ingredients for pesto stuffed shells

First prepare the filling for the shells. Make sure your 1/2 lb. frozen spinach is completely thawed, then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible. Combine the spinach in a bowl with 15oz. ricotta, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 large egg, and 1/2 cup pesto.

Filling for stuffed shells mixed

Mix those ingredients together until they’re well combined, then refrigerate them until they’re ready to be used.

Cooked Jumbo Shells

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add about 22-25 jumbo pasta shells (about 8oz.). Boil the shells just until they’re tender, but still sturdy. Over cooking the pasta shells makes them difficult to stuff without ripping. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water to make them easy to handle.

Pasta Sauce in Casserole Dish

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread about 1 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish (about 9×13″). 

Stuff Jumbo Shells with pesto spinach ricotta filling

Stuff each pasta shell with about 2 Tbsp of the prepared spinach and pesto cheese filling, then place them in the casserole dish.

Pesto Stuffed Shells in Casserole Dish

Line the shells up with one another so they are fairly closely packed.

Pour Pasta Sauce Over Pesto Stuffed Shells

Finally, pour the remaining 2 cups of pasta sauce over the shells.

Pesto Stuffed Shells Ready to Bake

Since the shells are stuffed with cheese, I didn’t feel the need to top them with even more cheese… but that’s just me. ;P

Pesto Stuffed Shells Baked

Bake the Pesto Stuffed Shells in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is a little bubbly and browned around the edges.

Pesto Stuffed Shells served on a plate with garlic bread.

Serve the pesto stuffed shells hot. Pairs beautifully with Homemade Garlic Bread!

Looking for a meaty stuffed shells recipe? Try these Italian Stuffed Shells from our friends at TheCookieRookie.com.

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  1. I love this recipe. I made this for a church function last night and it was hit. Almost 1000 shells and we fed about 80 families. Thanks!

  2. To die for! Whole family devoured.  Paired with a delicious fresh salad.  Chefs kiss!!

  3. This is one of my favorite recipes to make, but for the past year or so, the grocery stores have been out of jumbo shells. But I recently found some manicotti and was wondering if there’s anything different I should do to make a stuffed manicotti version of this. Any ideas?

    1. I did this! I finally found one store with jumbo shells, but I have made this recipe before with manicotti and it turned out the same. Harder to stuff than the shells, but tastes the same. 

  4. This was my first time making stuffed pasta of any kind and it was such a decadent meal! I did use fresh spinach that I already had on hand, and I sauteed and chopped it as recommended to someone else in the comments (cooked the leaves whole, refrigerated it for a while to set, and then chopped right before making the filling). I can’t wait to make this again!

  5. Making this today – my son has made it and loves it! If I am assembling it a few hours ahead of time, should I put the sauce on top now? Or wait until I’m about to bake it?

    1. I would probably wait until you’re ready to bake it so the pasta doesn’t end up absorbing too much moisture from the sauce.

    1. Yes, but you’ll probably want to chop and sauté it first to remove some of the moisture. :)

  6. This recipe is delicious and easy. Just so everyone knows, I once forgot the egg and it was fine.

  7. This recipe comes together so quickly and easily! We love sharing extra servings with friends and family as well as freezing for later.

  8. I made this exactly as written and it was FABULOUS! I was worried my 7 yr old would turn her nose up at the spinach, but the pesto masked any trace of it. Everyone asked me to make it again! Thank you!

  9. I love this recipe! Can’t even tell you how many people I’ve recommended this to. I bring leftovers to work and everyone tells me how good it smells. My family loves this. I add provel cheese on top because I’m from STL and love cheese. I like to add more sauce than recommended so the leftovers aren’t dry.

  10. Super delicious!! Plus super easy follow along instructions and cheap! I’ve made three or four of these receipts now, I love this site! 

  11. I use a 1/2 batch of the slow cooker marinara recipe for this and it’s AMAZING. Easy to freeze the other half for another recipe too (I’m thinking baked ziti).