Cheesy Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Vodka Sauce

Rachel Riesgraf, Modern Farmhouse Eats

We love this dairy-filled dish, including three types of cheese, heavy cream and real butter! The vodka sauce brings this delicious dinner home, and using real butter makes for a rich, smooth sauce. Plus, butter balances out the acidity in the tomatoes. Opt for salted butter for enhanced flavor.
15 min Prep Time
45 min Cook Time
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 45 min
  • Servings: 6

Servings: 6


  • Stuffed Shells

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Vodka Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • (optional, adds a little spice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded


Stuffed Shells

Step 1

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add spinach. Sauté spinach until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 2

Combine the spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, pesto and whisked egg in a large bowl. Set aside.

Step 3

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Cook jumbo shell pasta until al dente. Strain.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Vodka Sauce

Step 5

Using the same large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano and basil; cook for another minute.

Step 6

Add tomato paste; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour in vodka while mixing and let it cook off for about 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 7

Reduce skillet to medium-low heat. Whisk in heavy cream, salt and sugar; let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 8

Mix the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.

Step 9

Stuff each shell with about 1 tablespoon of cheese filling, then place in the skillet with the vodka sauce.

Step 10

Top shells with shredded mozzarella and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.