These stuffed shells are filled with three types of cheese, then covered in marinara sauce and more cheese and baked to golden brown perfection. A comfort food classic that’s great for feeding a crowd!
When I’m looking for an easy meal that will please both kids and adults alike, I turn to baked spaghetti, lasagna roll ups, or these ultra cheesy stuffed shells.
Stuffed shells are a popular dish for good reason – they’re hearty and elegant looking, yet easy to make. And who can resist all of that cheese? This version uses ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, along with zesty marinara sauce, for a totally satisfying meal.
How do you make stuffed shells?
Start this dish by boiling your pasta shells. While the shells are cooking, prepare the filling by mixing together ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, along with seasonings and egg. Use a spoon or piping bag to fill each cooked shell with the cheese mixture. Pour marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, then arrange the shells on top of the sauce. Spoon more sauce over the shells, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Bake the pasta covered, then uncovered until browned and bubbly. Add a sprinkle of fresh parsley, then serve and enjoy.
Tips for the perfect pasta
- Be sure to undercook your shells by 1-2 minutes because they will continue to cook when they go into the oven.
- I prefer to use whole milk ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, but if you’re looking to save a few calories, you can use part skim.
- Skip the pre-shredded bags of cheese and grate your own instead. I find that the pre-grated cheeses at the store tend to be coated with anti-caking agents and preservatives, and do not melt as smoothly.
- You can assemble this dish up to 8 hours before you plan to bake it. Cover the dish with foil and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. You may need to add another 10 minutes to the baking time to compensate for starting with chilled pasta.
- Choose a high quality jarred marinara sauce. I typically use Newman’s Own or Classico brands.
This is a classic version of baked shells with a cheese filling, but you can add a variety of ingredients to this dish to customize it to your tastes.
- Protein: Stir 8 ounces of cooked crumbled ground beef, Italian sausage or ground turkey into the cheese mixture. You can also try using shredded cooked chicken.
- Vegetables: Add up to 1 cup of veggies to the cheese filling such as spinach, mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini or kale. Make sure to finely chop the vegetables and cook them before they go into the mix.
- Sauce: Swap out the marinara sauce for creamy Alfredo sauce, or use a hearty bolognese style meat sauce instead.
- Cheese: You can use other types of cheese instead of the three I’ve listed, such as cream cheese, small curd cottage cheese, provolone, fontina, asiago or romano.
Can you freeze stuffed shells?
This dish will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months. Assemble the shells, then cover tightly and freeze. When you’re ready to eat, bake the shells from frozen and be sure to add another 30 minutes to the cooking time. You can also freeze individual sized portions of leftover shells that have already been cooked. Reheat previously baked shells in the microwave in 90 second intervals until heated through.
How long are stuffed shells good for?
Stuffed shells will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, which makes them a great candidate for meal prep. You can store your baked shells in the pan with foil to cover, or transfer them to an airtight container.
More pasta recipes you’ll love
Stuffed Shells Video
Classic Stuffed Shells
- 24 jumbo pasta shells cooked according to package directions
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided use
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 cups marinara sauce divided use
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9"x13" baking pan with cooking spray.
- Spread 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce in an even layer in the bottom of the pan.
- Place the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, egg, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Stir to combine.
- Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and place in the baking dish.
- Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells, then sprinkle the other 1 1/2 cups of cheese over the top.
- Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan, then bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
- Sprinkle with parsley, then serve.
Beginner cook here! This recipe was extremely easy and came out delicious
Does the parsley go in the ricotta mixture or on top? You left it out of the instructions.
The parsley is added in step 7 of the instructions.
Would it be possible to omit the mozzarella from the ricotta mixture and just use extra ricotta? Not big mozzarella fans for the most part here, we don’t mind at sprinkled on top but that’s about our limit. However, we LOVE ricotta cheese, lol!
Yes that should be fine!
Hi this looks great . Can I half this recipe for 2 and use a 8×8 or 9×9 pan ?
Yes that’s fine!
Can I make the filling a day ahead?
Yes that’s fine!
What brand of jar sauce would you recommend ? I don’t have time to make sauce. Thx
I like Rao’s and Newman’s Own.
Isn’t it better to freeze them without the sauce? I usually add the sauce before baking, but is it better to defrost first or cook frozen? I know it’s done either way, but which is better?
You can freeze the shells without the sauce, and you do not need to defrost them before baking!
So to add some protein to the dish, I browned and drained some ground Italian sausage. I then added it to the cheese mixture.
My Husband, who NEVER eats leftovers, stole some for lunch the next day!
Oh crickey —- he’d be eating leftovers at my house or he’d go hungry ☺️
Hi, this dish looks delicious. Can i leave out the parsley?
Yes that’s fine!
Can you make this ahead, freeze it, and then bake from frozen?
Yes that will work!
Hi there! Is it possible that I can bake the dish at 350 degrees instead of 375.
Yes that should be fine!
Do i need to parboil my shells? I couldnt find any that were oven ready.
This recipe calls for cooked pasta shells!
I don’t believe there are oven-ready pasta shells, except for the kind already stuffed with cheese in the freezer section. I believe that’s why the recipe ingredients state that you need the jumbo pasta shells “cooked according to package directions”.
I don’t use tin foil. Would it cook the same if I cooked it uncovered?
The pasta will get hard if you cook it uncovered the whole time, you could try something else like parchment.
These were extremely yummy and everyone gave me compliments over!
Hi Sara, I made these last month when my closest friends had asked me to make dinner for them. These were a humongous hit. Everyone including myself couldn’t resist going for seconds. So delicious. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. This will be my go-to recipe for stuffed shells.
Incredible dish! I’ve made it numerous times and it consistently gets high marks from everyone I cook it for.
one of the best things i’ve ever made.
Looks great! can I omit the parmesan cheese?
That should be fine!
All things in life should be this easy and enjoyable! Truly an elegant, yet simple, dish. No need to tweak here folks!