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.

Baked stuffed shells filled with three types of cheese and topped with marinara sauce. #pasta #dinneratthezoo Baked stuffed shells filled with three types of cheese and topped with marinara sauce. #pasta #dinneratthezoo

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.

Ricotta cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, herbs and seasonings in a bowl.

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.

Pasta shells filled with cheese on a bed of tomato sauce.

Flavor variations

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.

Filled pasta shells topped with marinara sauce and shredded cheese.

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.

Baked stuffed shells filled with three types of cheese and topped with marinara sauce.

More pasta recipes you’ll love

Stuffed Shells Video

5 from 178 votes

Classic Stuffed Shells

AuthorSara Welch
A spoon holding up stuffed shells filled with cheese.
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!
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6


  • 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.


Calories: 488kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 1193mg | Potassium: 630mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1460IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 561mg | Iron: 3mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. How soon in advance can I mix the ricotta filling before the shells are stuffed? Hopefully three days.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m an expert at eating Italian food, cooking it? No so much! But, I wanted to make dinner at home for my boyfriend and the recipe was easy to follow! I did an Alfredo sauce and marinara! I also added ground beef in the marinara sauce filling and spinach and broccoli in the Alfredo sauced filling. It was delicious and my boyfriend loved it! will be making it a staple!

  3. 5 stars
    So delicious! I added ground beef and a ridiculous amount of garlic. We have made this recipe twice now this summer(only thing we have turned our oven on for). The leftovers heat up so easily and taste just as great as the day they were made. Thank you so much!

    1. Next time make sure shells are nestled inside pan & and then make sure the sauce covers completely I’ve noticed that happens if they’re not covered completely with the sauce and sometimes I only leave the foil off for five minutes and I make a tent so that the cheese doesn’t stick to it this is my grandson‘s favorite meal I love this recipe I use it all the time

  4. 5 stars
    First time making stuffed shells. These were SO easy and fantastic! Fed 6 easily and no one left hungry! Thank you!

  5. Love this recipe and so does everyone I make it for. I’m going to make it for Sat dinner at someone’s home. Wondering if I can assemble it all the day before and bake it the next day? Or will it get soggy or watery?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. That should be fine, just be aware that the pasta may soak up some of the sauce as it sits in the fridge.

  6. 5 stars
    When you change the servings, the instructions about the cups of marinara and mozzarella don’t change. Otherwise, great! Thanks!

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is my go-to for large crowds. I have made it with and without meat. It’s great either way. Kids love it!

  8. 5 stars
    Adding Italian seasoning to ricotta mixture is what made this recipe better than any I’ve ever tried!! THANK YOU!!

  9. We love this recipe but we’re having a friend over who can’t do tomato. Have you ever tried this with some kind of white sauce?

  10. 5 stars
    I am also a novice at cooking and planned on having my wife (not a novice) help me out but she wasn’t available. I added some finely chopped spinach to cheese mixture and an unmeasured amount of Italian spice. Final product did not look as neat as pictures shown as stuffing shells was a little sloppy. They were delicious. Thank you for the delightful dinner. Also served wedge salad, crusty bread, baked asparagus with a mint gelato as a desert. Almost forgot to mention the Chianti!

  11. I bought jumbo shells, thinking they were the correct ones. Mine were the size of golf balls. I assume your recipe calls for the really jumbo shells. Since mine were smaller, I had a tough time cooking them through. I did the 30 minutes and they were still hard. Do you have any guidance on making these sized shells? Flavors were good, though! I added some red crushed pepper to the ricotta mix! Yum!

    1. Jumbo shells are correct, did you boil them first as called for in the recipe? The pasta should be tender before you stuff it! Hope this helps.

  12. 5 stars
    For someone who is a novice at cooking, I found this recipe easy to follow. The result is two thumbs up! I will be making it again.