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 257 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!
Time
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Nutrition

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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Comments

  1. I’m trying to add this into my fitness pal, I see the nutrient information but for how many shells is that? What is a serving?

  2. So to prepare them the night before or earlier would I bake then freeze or assemble and then freeze with out backing them?

    1. If you’re doing the night before you don’t need to freeze it. If it’s further in advance you can freeze them unbaked.

    1. Over cooked the pasta.. Put a little olive oil in with the boiling water so the shells doesn’t stick together & you want to take the shells out 1-2 minutes al-dente meaning not follow the directions on the box of shells & cook them all the way. Then when they’re done strain them & rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process & shake access water off.

    2. Under cook your noodles by a few minutes, rinse them with cool water then lay them out separately on parchment paper. I only had 2 break but they were broken before I started. That should help a lot.

    3. I cook the shells for 9 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and then place on a parchment lined baking sheet until ready to fill.

  3. I need to freeze these as I am making them for a party in advance, how long and what temp would I cook them from frozen? Also should I cook before I freeze them, or just stuff the shells, top with cheese and freeze as is?
    Thanks!

  4. 3 cups of marinara is more than needed. The filing doesn’t fill 24 shells. Add a few ounces of ricotta and another 1/3 cup of mozzarella (or mozzarella/provolone mix) – or add sautéed and drained chopped mushroom or cooks and squeezed spinach). Also 1-1/2 cups of cheese to top is probably a bit more than needed, but extra cheese never hurts.

    That said, the proportions of cheese makes for a tasty filling, but get a good, tasty pasta sauce as marinara is a bit bland for my taste.

    Made today for my sister’s birthday. Paired with breaded and baked breaded chicken breasts and a spinach salad with fresh mushroom, tri-color peppers and halved grape tomatoes.

  5. I made this years ago and wanted to make again. I do remember that I also used an egg in the filling. Why is it omitted?

  6. 5 stars
    These were delicious! I had some leftover hamburger patties which I browned and added along with some sautéed spinach. As a result I ended up with about 10 extra shells, whichni froze and will enjoy later!

  7. 5 stars
    A very good recipe with good variation notes too! I’ve long had Italian American in-laws so… certainly not my first time making these. It’s been a little while so I checked for well-liked recipes to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. The only thing I’d change here is to add a half cup or so of fresh shredded Parm into the cheese filling mix, and on that note, when and where to add the Parm is missing from these recipe directions. I shredded one cup of Parm, put half into the ricotta mixture, and mixed the other half with the Mozz that goes on top. Pro tips – If you like a nice al dente pasta, boil the shells a good 4 minutes shy of the box directions. If you’d like to add veg without precooking them, finely shredded onion, zucchini, mushrooms, or sweet peppers can go in raw and will cook up during the bake… key words being, finely shredded, (btw, this is also how I add uncooked veg to raw meatball mix and the veg gets nice and tender in the relatively short time meatballs need to cook.) Lastly, if you’re so inclined, make your own tomato sauce, and make a lot of it. I keep quarts of our homemade sauce in the freezer just for recipes like this one. Thanks for a good recipe Sara!!

  8. Can I put this together the day before and cook the next day? Should I leave it out for a bit before I put into the oven? Also, if I bake at 350 degrees, do I keep it in longer.

    Thank you

  9. This was an easy and delicious recipe. I’m making it again this week. I thought the ricotta wasn’t going to be enough for 24 shells but it was perfect. Made exactly as directions stated. Thank you!

    1. I’ve frozen my shells many times. I do make sure they are vacuum sealed or in a sealable container to avoid freezer burn since they are delicate. Just don’t over-squeeze like I did the first time. LOL

    1. I always make stuffed shells this way. I just add some water around the edge of the pan. Tightly cover with foil and the pasta basically steam cooks in the oven. Need to bake for 1 hr.