Cheesy Baked Shells with Garlic Spinach

Cheesy Baked Shells with Garlic Spinach

What’s not to love about a baked pasta dish? It’s the perfect season to bake and make not just soups and chilis, but baked dishes as well. I love pasta (I mean who doesn’t?) and it’s always a hit in my home, and I can’t wait to start feeding Rowen some soft pasta in the coming weeks – he has NO idea what he’s in store for as he gets old and he can be my mini taste tester – AH SO EXCITED! Anyway, this dish is resemblant of a baked ziti, almost like it’s cousin, but uses a different pasta which is an easy swap, and add in some sautéed garlic spinach. I’m drooling typing this.

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I’ll be totally honest and say regular durum wheat or semolina pasta makes me bloat due to the gluten, so I do have to be careful most times which is why I tend to eat Banza or Jovial pasta (both of which can be found on Thrive Market – if you sign up you’ll get a free gift; link here). Now and again I’ll opt for the real-deal pasta, but this recipe can definitely be made with a chickpea or brown rice pasta, just remember not to cook the pasta fully as it will bake in the oven and finish cooking.

California Olive Ranch

Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • 1 pkg (1lb) shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara
  • Dried basil
  • Dried oregano
  • 1 pkg fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Garlic powder

Begin by bringing a pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 350*. Add salt to the water and add the pasta in, stirring occasionally. DO NOT cook the pasta completely, turn water off 2-3 minutes earlier than the time suggested, the pasta will finish cooking when it baked. While the pasta cooks, pour some marinara into a baking dish and set aside. Strain pasta and pour into the baking dish. For the spinach, melt butter in a frying pan and add the spinach; toss spinach until all has wilted and add garlic powder. Toss to coat and set aside.

Mix the marinara with the shells and add ricotta and more marinara. Using a wooden spoon, mix the ricotta and marinara with the pasta to coat – add more marinara as needed to ensure the pasta stays moist while it bakes. Sprinkle dried basil and oregano and add a layer of mozzarella cheese. Add the spinach and spread out across the first layer of cheese, then add a second layer of mozzarella. Bake for 15-17 minutes – turn oven to broil and broil for another two minutes until the cheese browns and begins to boil. This will definitely yield enough for dinner for two nights, maybe even a lunch – trust me, you’ll want leftovers!

Cheesy Baked Shells with Garlic Spinach

Get ready for a delicious baked dinner! Super easy, done in 30 minutes, and with a full serving of veggies, this will be a hit at the dinner table – enough for leftovers the next day too!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Asian, Italian, Vegetables
Keyword baked pasta, baked shells, cheesy, dinner, italian food, kid friendly, pasta dish, spinach, veggies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author nomastehungry


  • 1 pkg shells
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

For the Spinach

  • 1 pkg fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 350* and pour some marinara sauce into a baking dish; set aside.

  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta with a pinch of salt and cook pasta 2-3 minutes less than what the box or bag suggests.

  3. Strain pasta and pour into baking dish with marinara. Stir to coat; add ricotta and more marinara sauce and coat again. Sprinkle dried basil and oregano.

  4. Add a few small dollops of ricotta and marinara sauce and sprinkle a layer of mozzarella cheese. Take the sauteed spinach and spread it out across the top layer of cheese and add a second layer of mozzarella.

  5. Bake for 15-17 minutes and then turn the broil on and broil for two minutes.

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