Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Spinach

Did you know you can cook pasta in the slow cooker?  We took raw pasta shells and cooked them directly in the slow cooker for our Stuffed Shells with Spinach.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach

We started with large uncooked pasta shells and filled them with a combination of frozen spinach, mozzarella cheese, creamy ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, fresh garlic and Italian seasoning. Use a spoon and to fill the shells with the cheese mixture. We found that running the shells under warm water for a few seconds helps to soften them, making them easier to fill. Once the shells are filled, layer them directly in the crock. Top the first layer with extra tomato sauce (use homemade or your favorite jarred variety from the grocery store) and cheese. Add another layer of shells and close the lid.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells

Once the pasta is cooked, sprinkle a little more cheese on top, garnish with fresh parsley and dinner is served. Not only is this an easy meal to make, it’s a simple way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Serve with garlic bread or a salad for an well-rounded Italian dinner.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Spinach


Stuffed Shells with Spinach
Serves 8
You might find that some of the shells are hard to fill, so we recommend running the shells under warm water for a few seconds to make the filling process a little easier!
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  1. 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  2. 1 container (12 ounces) ricotta cheese
  3. 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  4. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  7. 28 jumbo pasta shells
  8. 2 jars (24 ounces each) marinara sauce
  9. Chopped parsley
  1. In a large bowl, stir spinach, ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan, garlic and Italian seasoning.
  2. Divide and fill each shell with ricotta mixture.
  3. Add 3 cups sauce to the bottom of the crock.
  4. Place 14 stuffed shells in the bottom of the crock. Spoon 2 cups marinara sauce over shells.
  5. Top with remaining stuffed shells and sauce.
  6. Cover slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 8 until shells are cooked. Remove lid and sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese over shells. Wait 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley.
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Hamilton Beach 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker 33463Mix and match any temperature with your choice of cooking times with the Programmable 6 Quart Slow Cooker






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  4. Avatar

    Can i cook this in the oven instead? If so how long?

    • Avatar
      Patricia Schweitzer

      Kimberly, This recipe was developed for a large 6-quart slow cooker. The quantities of ingredients should be reduced to fit a casserole dish. Cover tightly to bake to ensure there is enough moisture to re-hydrate the shells. Our test kitchen culinary specialists have not tested this recipe in a regular oven so we cannot give you accurate baking times. Bake until the shells are tender, then uncover, add the cheese and bake until melted.

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  13. Avatar

    This worked great for my husband and I! It was such a wonderful and filling meal!

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  20. Avatar
    Samantha R

    This recipe seemed to good to be true… and it was. The pasta was mushy, the shells lost their shape, there was visible brown, burnt crusties, and the flavor wasn’t that impressive. I cooked on low for 7 hours, as I was out of the house most of the day.

  21. Avatar

    5 cups of sauce to 14 shells…not.

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  26. Avatar

    I made this yesterday and it was gross. The pasta was mushy and the frozen spinach has a weird taste. I am used to fresh vegetables and have never used frozen. I threw most of this away.

    • Avatar
      Eve Woldt

      Kate, I totally agree with you with frozen spinach. It has a gross funny taste to it. I can’t really say what it is, technically. I have now just do everything fresh. Made the shells…sautéed fresh spinach, garlic, & mushrooms. Everything FRESH! Try it again.

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  32. Avatar

    Mine turned into mush…took a picture and sent it to my mother-in-law…titled it “NAILED IT”!!!

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  34. Avatar

    I made a big batch of the filling and stuffed a whole bunch of shells at once, and I’m freezing most of them filled but uncooked, so I can just drop as many as I like in a crockpot whenever I want! Works nicely!

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  37. Avatar

    Absolute fail! Ricotta cheese and spinach all turned brown and noodles were mush

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  39. Avatar

    Unfortunately, this did not work well for me. I followed the directions exactly, and checked it 30 minutes before the minimum time on low. The pasta was so mushy it was falling apart; I had to throw it out.

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  41. Avatar

    I plan on trying this. But I wanted to know if meatballs can be put in the shells along with the ingredients for the stuffed shells?

  42. Avatar

    Can you us fresh spinach?

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  44. Avatar

    Can spaghetti sauce be used instead of marinara?

  45. Avatar

    hello, can i make the stuffed shells and then freeze them to eat on a later day?

    • Sarah DiPeppe

      Hi Tish, the stuffed shells can be cooked ahead, cooled, and frozen in an airtight container. I would reduce the cooking time, since you will be reheating. The shells could get a little mushy if they are cooked completely, frozen and reheated. Hope this helps!

  46. Avatar

    If you add shredded chicken to the mixture will it completely dry out in the cooking process? Trying to find a way to add some protein to the dish.

    • Sarah DiPeppe

      Melissa, yes, shredded chicken can be added to the filling which will increase the amount to stuff in the shells. Therefore, more shells will be required based on the amount of chicken that is added. The chicken shouldn’t dry out while cooking, since this recipe has 2 (24 oz) jars of marinara sauce. If you were to add a lot of chicken to the filling you might want to increase the amount of marinara sauce. You might also have to increase the cooking time. There are around 16 grams of protein in a serving of the Slow Cooker Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells before adding chicken. Hope this helps.

      • Avatar

        Thank you for your help with the recipe, it turned out great with the chicken! I definitely have too much mixture though! Can I freeze the mixture to make this dish again in the future?

        • Sarah DiPeppe

          We’re happy to help! The filling can be frozen in an resealable freezer plastic bag for a later use. Make sure the filling is completely defrosted before stuffing the shells.

  47. Avatar

    I have found the shells mostly at high end grocers, I actually bought my last bag at “home goods”. Also, for a lighter side version and because of dairy overload I use ” Lactaid” cottage cheese in place of the ricotta. It’s just a thought and totally personal preference.

  48. Avatar

    When cooking pasta in a slow cooker, I recommend doing it on a day you’ll be home for the most part to keep an eye on it. I made a similar dish last week with uncooked shells. Had it cooking while I was at work so it cooked for 9hrs….it was mush! We ended up tossing it out and just had sandwiches for dinner.
    *This is NOT a criticism of this recipe. We did not make this recipe. We just made something similar and had issues with it. So if is your first time making it, I don’t recommend doing it on a work day.

  49. Avatar

    Can you freeze ahead of time and then thaw to cook in crock pot?

  50. Avatar

    Can this be freezed ahead of time?

  51. Avatar

    can you put raw sausage in to cook with the shells

  52. Avatar

    This recipe sounds delicious. I couldn’t find any jumbo shells at the store so I’m going to try this with manicotti.

  53. Avatar
    Tracy Costa

    If you use a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped
    off and pipe the cheese filling in, it is much easier.

  54. Avatar

    Do you cook the shells before stuffing them?

    • Sarah DiPeppe

      Heather, no, you don’t cook the shells before stuffing them. They cook right in the slow cooker. You might find that some of the shells are hard to fill, so we recommend running the shells under warm water for a few seconds to make the filling process a little easier!

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