Easy Crock Pot Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach

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Easy Crock Pot Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach are the perfect make-ahead dish for the family! Stuff each dry shell with a turkey spinach ricotta mixture then smother with sauce and cheese and forget about it! It’s the ultimate simple dinner no one can resist! 

If you love comforting pasta dishes like this, then you need to try my Roasted Butternut Squash Creamy Goat Cheese Pasta or this Easy Spinach & Mushroom Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce.

a spoon holding stuffed shells filled with ricotta and spinach

Crock Pot Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach

Did ya’ll know that you can make stuffed shells in the crock pot? And did you know how stinkin easy it is? You literally throw the shells in raw. No cooking. The crock pot does everything for you! It’s amazing and turns into the most epic comforting cheesy saucy pasta bite of your life!

I’m already thinking of other variations I can create with this life changing method. 

how to make filling for stuffed shells

What are Stuffed Shells?

Stuffed Shells are an Italian dish that uses jumbo shell pasta and stuffs it different fillings. Common fillings are a ricotta cheese mixture, ground meat or vegetable melody. 

Ingredients you’ll need for these Stuffed Shells with Spinach:

The filling for this recipe is super easy to make and the only “work” you’ll need to do because the Crock Pot will do the rest of the work for you. To make these easy crock pot stuffed shells you’ll need the following ingredients.

  • Jumbo Shells – Make sure they are jumbo and not the smaller version, you’ll need plenty of space for the filling because you’ll be stuffing these shells dry so they will not be pliable.
  • Ground Turkey – I used ground turkey for a leaner meat, however you could use ground beef or Italian sausage in this as well.
  • Aromatics – Onion and garlic are key to any italian pasta recipe. 
  • Fresh Spinach – I prefer fresh spinach, however if you have frozen you can use that as well. Just thaw, squeeze out any excess liquid from the spinach and add to the filling.
  • Italian Spices – The key to any good dish is the spices you use for flavor. In these stuffed shells I focus on the Italian spices like oregano, parsley, basil and garlic powder. As always, make sure you have salt and pepper on hand to season as well.
  • Ricotta Cheese – This adds such a nice creamy element to the shells. If you don’t like ricotta you could sub with cottage cheese or cream cheese.
  • Marinara Sauce – I like to use two different brands of marinara sauce because each brand has a different flavor. (For this recipe I used Muir Glen & Raos Marinara)
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Is it an Italian dish if it’s not covered in cheese? I think not. You’ll need shredded mozzarella to finish this dish at the last 5 minutes of cooking.

crock pot filled with stuffed shells and a spoon

How to Make the Best Stuffed Shells?

Most classic stuffed shell recipe are baked in the oven. Well this recipe is anything but classic. These Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach are made in the Crock Pot and come out perfectly tender! Here’s how to make them.

  1. Sauté Turkey & Spinach. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add avocado oil and diced onions. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Next add in the ground turkey. Cook turkey until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the fresh spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Make Filling. In a large bowl add ricotta cheese, turkey spinach mixture, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine everything.
  3. Stuff Shells: Stuff each jumbo shell with spinach turkey ricotta mixture. I like to use a small spoon for this part.
  4. Layer Crock Pot with Prepared Shells: Add 3 cups of marinara sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker. Place 14 stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce over shells. Top with remaining stuffed shells and finish with the rest of the sauce.
  5. Cook in Crock Pot: Cover slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 6 until shells are cooked and tender.
  6. Top with Mozzarella: When shells are cooked sprinkle mozzarella cheese over shells. Wait 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley. Serve!

How long to cook Stuffed Shells?

Now, just to give you a heads up. When I made my Stuffed Shells, not all of the shells stayed in true “shell form” (meaning they fell apart) but honestly I didn’t care. The flavors were banging so who cares what it looks like. I had mine in the crock pot for 3 hours on HIGH, so if you really want them to stay in shells then maybe cook them for 2 1/2 hours. Up to you!

a spoon scooping stuffed shells from a crock pot

How long can you keep Stuffed Shells in the refrigerator?

These stuffed shells are a great make ahead dish. You can fill and refrigerate the stuffed shells up to 24 hours in advance, as long as all your ingredients are as fresh as they can be. When ready to make simply start at Step 4 and cook as directed.

Not only does this recipe make a ton of food, basically enough to feed an army of hungry kids after a long day of school, but it’s super easy to make. 

Can you freeze Stuffed Shells?

Yes, you can freeze stuffed shells. However, I’d recommend making the filling and stuffing each shell with the filling then placing them on a large sheet pan. Tightly cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and then foil. Allow shells to freeze completely. Once frozen, transfer the shells to large freezer bags. Remove any air and return to the freezer. These stuffed shells should keep for up to 3 months. 

How long to cook frozen Stuffed Shells?

When you’re ready to make this recipe remove the shells from the freezer and start with Step 4 in the Recipe Card below. Heat until shells are cooked through and tender.

how to assemble stuffed shells in a crock pot

Tips for Making the Best Crock Pot Stuffed Shells:

  • Because pasta will continue to cook after it’s removed from the heat. I suggest cooking shells for 2.5 hours on HIGH at first and then checking every 15 minutes after. You want them to be al dente when you turn the crock pot off.
  • When stuffing the shells, put the filling in a large ziplock and slice a large enough hole at the end to allow the ground turkey to come through. Then pipe fllling into the shells. Or use a small spoon to stuff the filling in the shells. (I actually use a toddler feeding spoon haha)
  • I prefer to use whole milk ricotta not the fat free. If you don’t like ricotta you can sub with cottage cheese or softened cream cheese. 
  • My favorite brand of mozzarella is Tillamook farm cut, I find that it melts like a star. It’s the ONLY brand I use!
  • Because this recipe is meant to be easy and save time I use store bought marinara sauce. I find when you use two different kinds it gives you two different unique flavors. My favorite brands are Muir Glen Tomato & Basil and Rao’s Marinara Sauce. 

What to serve with Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach?

a spoon in a crock pot filled with stuffed shells

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a spoon holding stuffed shells filled with ricotta and spinach

Crock Pot Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach

  • Author: Krista @ JoyfulHealthyEats.com
  • prep_time Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • cook_time Cook Time: 3 hours
  • total_time Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • yield Yield: 7-9 servings 1x
  • category Category: Turkey
  • method Method: Crock Pot
  • cuisine Cuisine: Italian

Description

Easy Crock Pot Turkey Stuffed Shells with Spinach are the perfect make-ahead dinner for the family! Stuff each dry shell with a turkey spinach ricotta mixture then smother with sauce and cheese! The ultimate comfort food bite! 

Scale

Ingredients

  • 28 jumbo shells
  • 1.5  jars ( or 4.5 cups) of marinara sauce (use 2 different 25 oz. jars)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dry basil
  • 1 tablespoon dry parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups fresh diced spinach
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • diced parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Sauté Turkey & Spinach. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add avocado oil and diced onions. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Next add in the ground turkey. Cook turkey until no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the fresh spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Make Filling. In a large bowl add ricotta cheese, turkey spinach mixture, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine everything.
  3. Stuff Shells: Stuff each jumbo shell with spinach turkey ricotta mixture.
  4. Layer Crock Pot with Prepared Shells: Add 3 cups of marinara sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker. Place 14 stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce over shells. Top with remaining stuffed shells and finish with the rest of the sauce.
  5. Cook in Crock Pot: Cover slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 6 until shells are cooked and tender.
  6. Top with Mozzarella: When shells are cooked sprinkle mozzarella cheese over shells. Wait 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley. Serve!

Keywords: spinach stuffed shells, stuffed shells, stuffed shells with spinach, stuffed shells recipe, easy stuffed shells recipe, best stuffed shells recipe, how to make stuffed shells, ricotta stuffed shells, crock pot pasta recipe, crock pot pasta

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Hey There

Krista
Hi! I'm the recipe developer and food photographer behind all these easy healthy recipes! I love food, Jesus, morning lattes, and am obsessed with fantasy football!

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17 Responses
    1. Krista

      yes, absolutely, you can use avocado oil, coconut oil or olive oil if you don’t have any of those. Just make sure the olive oil doesn’t get too hot.

  1. Maryanne | the little epicurean

    This looks delicious! But more importantly, I’m so excited for you! Hope your gender reveal party is a blast!

  2. Amy @ Little Dairy on the Prairie

    I cannot wait to find out what you are having! So exciting! This dinner looks amazing too!!

  3. Stacey @ Bake.Eat.Repeat.

    That looks absolutely fantastic – and so easy!! And congrats on the new baby! The gender reveal party will be so fun, not something that was a thing when I had my kids but they sound like such fun! 🙂

    1. Krista

      Thank you so much Stacey! It wasn’t a “thing” with Cason either but it was so fun to do it this time and find out when everybody else found out!

  4. Patricia @ Grab a Plate

    Great idea to make these in the crock pot! I looooove stuffed shells, and I especially love that added spinach!

  5. Ashley | Spoonful of Flavor

    I love easy crockpot meals and stuffed shells! I’ve never tried them in the crockpot but definitely need to do that soon.

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