Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Vegetarian Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Ricotta Stuffed Shells that don’t require ANY pre-cooking of the noodles and that are packed full of flavor.

This is a great vegetarian freezer meal idea that’s easy to prepare and easy to bake in the oven from frozen.

Scooping stuffed shells out of the pan

The Perfect Weeknight Meal

Say hello to these flavor-packed vegetarian stuffed shells! Not only is this meal delicious, but it is made with super simple ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now!

We really do think this meal is the perfect vegetarian dinner idea. Why?

  • It is easy to prepare ahead of time! You can make it a night before or you can freeze it for another time.
  • These stuffed shells are nutrient-packed!
  • Pasta is a dish that the whole family loves!
  • You can make this dish your own by switching up ingredients!
Stuffed shells filling

Protein-Packed Stuffed Shells Filling

One of the best parts of these stuffed shells is the FILLING. We wanted to develop a filling that was nutritious, sweet, AND savory. I think we’ve done it.

The filling is made up of ricotta, cottage cheese, sweet potato puree, spinach, onion, and garlic! Let’s break down the ingredients.

Onions + Garlic

The base of so many delicious Italian dishes are onions and garlic. We used diced white onion and fresh minced garlic in this recipe and it adds great flavor to the whole dish!

Feel free to use any onion you have on hand. Even frozen onion would work just fine!

Ricotta

Did you know that one cup of ricotta cheese has 28 grams of protein? Heck yes! Not only is ricotta a protein booster, but it also acts a delicious creamy base to pasta dishes like lasagna and stuffed shells.

Cottage Cheese

We added extra goodness to these stuffed shells by adding even more protein and creaminess with cottage cheese. We use cottage cheese in our Instant Pot Protein Mac and Cheese because it adds protein and a delicious tang to pasta sauce.

Sweet Potato Puree

Say hello to one of the sneakiest ingredients of this dish, sweet potato puree! We wanted to sneak in another vegetable into these shells and sweet potato adds a bit of sweetness and crazy creaminess!

You can make your own sweet potato puree by preparing our homemade sweet potato puree or you can use a can of sweet potato puree! Don’t have access to sweet potato puree? Try using canned pumpkin, instead!

Spinach

Get your greens in! Spinach is a great source of magnesium and iron! It’s also a great vegetable to add to pasta dishes! You can use fresh spinach and wilt it yourself or frozen spinach.

The most important step for the filling–> Whether you use frozen spinach or wilt your own, it is very important to remove access moisture from the spinach! For frozen spinach that means wringing out moisture by placing the thawed frozen spinach in a paper towel and squeezing out water.

For fresh spinach that means cooking the spinach down and letting the access liquid cook off before adding it to the filling.

Stuffing shells

How to Stuff Shells

Guess what, these shells are actually stuffed when they’re UNCOOKED. That’s right, I said it. You fill uncooked giant shell noodles, which cuts out a whole step in this recipe.

After mixing up the filling, spread out a little filling and sauce on the bottom of a casserole and carefully start to fill the uncooked shells by scooping the filling into the shell.

You may have to use your hands to push the filling down into the shell, but it makes it a fun recipe to make with friends or family.

After stuffing the shells, place them open side-up into the sauce. Repeat this process until the noodles and filling are gone.

Stuffed shells in a casserole dish

How to Assemble this Dish

After all of the shells are stuffed and placed, there are only a few steps left.

  1. Pour marinara sauce and leftover filling (if there is any) over the top of the shells and spread it out evenly.
  2. After that, you can cover the dish with a top or tin foil and place it in the refrigerator for later or you place it in the oven to bake.
  3. Bake the stuffed shells for 60 minutes, sprinkle with cheese and bake for another couple of minutes to melt the cheese and ENJOY!
Stuffed shells in a casserole dish

How to Freeze Stuffed Shells for Later

Guess what? This recipe makes for an incredible freezer meal that you can prepare now and eat later. Here’s what you should freeze together:

Freeze Together

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 large white onion, finely diced
  • 5 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup 4% cottage cheese
  • 1 15-oz. can sweet potato puree (or pumpkin puree)
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 24-oz. jar organic marinara sauce
  • 12-oz. jumbo shells, uncooked

Freezer Directions

  1. First, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium/high heat and add olive oil.
  2. When olive oil is fragrant (that’s when you know it’s hot) add the onion to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Then, add in fresh spinach and toss.
  3. Sauté the spinach over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and then remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, sweet potato puree, minced garlic, salt and wilted spinach mixture. Set aside.
  5. Prepare a freezer-safe casserole dish by adding 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce, 1/2 cup of the cheese and sweet potato mixture to the bottom of the casserole dish. Use a spatula to mix and then spread the sauce out evenly on the bottom of the dish.
  6. Stuff the uncooked jumbo shells individually by scooping the sweet potato and cheese mixture with the shell until it is full. Place the shell on the bottom of the casserole, open side up. Repeat until all shells are used or until the casserole dish is full.
  7. Finally, pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells.
  8. Make sure the shells are completely cool before covering with either the casserole dish cover or with a piece of plastic wrap and then tin foil.
  9. Before placing the stuffed shells into the freezer, label and date the lasagna.
  10. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Cooking Directions (from frozen in the oven)

Ingredients to add Before Cooking

  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Remove stuffed shells from the freezer and discard plastic wrap if you used that or remove any plastic/non-oven-safe lids.
  3. Next, pour ½ cup of vegetable broth over the noodles and cover the entire dish with tin foil.
  4. Bake at 375ºF for one hour. Uncover and sprinkle the mozzarella over the shells and bake for an additional 10 minutes to melt the cheese.
Stuffed shells in a bowl

Healthy Pasta Dishes

Watch how to make this recipe

Recipe

Sweet Potato Spinach Stuffed Shells

Vegetarian Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Ricotta Stuffed Shells that don’t require ANY pre-cooking of the noodles and that are packed full of flavor.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Author: Linley Richter
Yield: 8 servings 1x
Category: Dinner
Method: Oven
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 large white onion, finely diced
  • 5 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup 4% cottage cheese
  • 1 15-oz. can sweet potato puree
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 24-oz. jar organic marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 12 oz. jumbo shells

Instructions

  1. First, preheat oven to 425ºF and spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Next, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium/high heat and add olive oil.
  3. When olive oil is fragrant (that’s when you know it’s hot) add the onion to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Then, add the fresh spinach to the pan and toss the spinach with the olive oil and onion.
  4. Sauté the spinach over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and then remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, sweet potato puree, minced garlic, salt and wilted spinach. Set aside.
  6. Prepare the casserole dish and add 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce, 1/2 cup of the cheese and sweet potato mixture , and 1/2 cup vegetable broth to the bottom of the casserole dish. Use a spatula to mix and then spread the sauce out evenly on the bottom of the dish.
  7. Stuff the jumbo shells individually by scooping the sweet potato and cheese mixture with the shell until it is full. Place the shell on the bottom of the casserole, open side up. Repeat until all shells are used or until the casserole dish is full.
  8. Finally, pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells and cover the casserole dish with tin foil and bake at 425ºF for 60 minutes.
  9. Remove the casserole dish from the oven and uncover. Sprinkle mozzarella over the shells and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/8
  • Calories: 393
  • Sugar: 11
  • Fat: 15
  • Carbohydrates: 47
  • Fiber: 3
  • Protein: 20
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