These Stuffed Shells are made with a cheesy ricotta filling, smothered in spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese, and then baked until gooey and browned for the ultimate Italian comfort food.
I suggest serving these Baked Shells with Homemade Garlic Toast and a Greek Salad for one delicious meal!
The Best Stuffed Shells
My comfort food of all time is cheesy pasta. And this recipe for Stuffed Shells is the epitome of cheesy pasta. It is one of those recipes that makes my soul--and of course my stomach--very happy!
Tender jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with a creamy, cheesy ricotta filling and then smothered in homemade spaghetti sauce and cheese and baked to perfection.
Baked shells are really not hard to prepare, making them perfect for a weeknight dinner. But given how much everyone loves this recipe, I would certainly not limit it to just the weeknights. This recipe is company-worthy--not many people can resist this classic recipe!
How To Make Stuffed Shells
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and season heavily with salt--this is your only opportunity to season your pasta!
- Once the water is boiling, pop jumbo shells into the water and boil for 2 minutes less than the package directions state, or about 9 minutes. This will let the shells be just tender enough to stuff, without being so soft that they fall apart.
- While the pasta is cooking, preare the filling by mixing together the ricotta with egg, parmesan, parsley, and seasonings in a large mixing bowl.
- Drain the shells--remember to NOT rinse your pasta. That will wash away flavor! And then let the shells cool in the strainer until just cool enough to be handled.
- Spread out ½ cup of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of casserole dish. This will help the shells to not stick to the dish.
- Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture, about ¼ cup filling per shell. I find using a spoon works perfectly to get the filling into the shell. Remember to not overstuff the shells, so that the shells can somewhat close around the ricotta filling. This will keep the filling from drying out when baked.
- Place the stuffed shells in the baking pan, nestling them close together and then cover with additional sauce and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake until filling is baked through and cheese is melted and browned.
If you happen to have any leftover stuffed shells, allow them to cool slightly and tightly cover the baking dish or transfer the shells to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Place the leftovers on a heat-safe plate or dish and cover with a paper towel. Heat for 1-minute intervals until warmed through.
How to Freeze Stuffed Shells
When you have the time and the ingredients on hand, I strongly suggest preparing a double batch of Stuffed Shells and freeze one batch for a busy day.
To freeze stuffed shells, use a freezer-safe casserole pan or disposable tin pan. Prepare the recipe up to baking. Cover the dish tightly with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
To cook the frozen stuffed shells, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dish from the freezer and remove ONE layer of foil, leaving the dish covered with a single layer of foil. Bake for 1 hour and then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the shells are warmed through.
- Stuffed Shells with Spinach: Chopped spinach makes a great addition to the ricotta filling. To add spinach, simply defrost ½ to ⅔ cup of frozen chopped spinach. Wring out all excess moisture from spinach using a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth--very important or your filling with being watery! Mix the spinach into the ricotta filling and stuff the shells as the recipe directs.
- Stuffed Shells with Meat: You can choose to make this recipe a bit more hearty with the addition of ground beef or ground sausage. Simply brown ½ pound ground beef or sausage until cooked through in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain off excess grease and crumble up meat into bite-size pieces. You can add your meat to the ricotta mixture for a meaty filling or the tomato sauce for a meat sauce, both are delicious.
More Cheesy Pasta Recipes
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If you enjoyed this recipe for Stuffed Shells, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
- 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells half a standard box
- 1 egg
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 3 cups spaghetti sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Once the water comes to a boil, heavily salt the water and add in the shells. Cook for 9 minutes, or 2 minutes less than the package directions state. Drain the pasta and allow it to cool slightly.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the filling by mixing together the ricotta egg, parmesan, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.
- Spread a 2-quart baking dish with ½ cup of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Once the shells are cool enough to handle, stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture, about ¼ cup filling per shell. Remember to not overstuff the shells, so that the shells can somewhat close around the ricotta filling.
- Top the shells with the remaining spaghetti sauce and then cover with the mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.
This post was originally published in 2018 but was updated in 2021 with step-by-step photos.
Can't wait to try this recipe - I really love the layout of your recipe as it includes how to make and bake it, then freeze and then reheat it. I will be adding spinach.
Thank you! I hope you enjoyed the stuffed shells!
As I expected, this recipe was a hit with my whole family. I improvised the ricotta with low-fat cottage cheese and even then it was a solid addition to the approved meals for my picky one. I'm glad I doubled the recipe to have some ready-made, frozen shells too. Next time I'll be trying with spinach.
You were smart to double. So happy to hear that it was a hit.
Hi. Can you make this a day ahead of time? I hope so! I put it together and plan to bake tomorrow. Any recommendations for me?
Hi Rose! Yes, you can stuff these shells as directed and cover them with foil and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. When ready to bake, remove the shells from the refrigerator to take the chill off as the oven comes to temp. Bake as directed, knowing you may need an additional close minutes
I made this tonight and it came out great!
I am so glad you enjoyed Kelli! Thanks for sharing.
Couldn't find jumbo shells to save my life, so I used lasagna noodles, cut in half and rolled. Worked out great!
I love how you improvised Margaret!
I find Jumbo shells can be really hard to find. When I do, I buy three packages!
That is a great tip! Thank you for sharing.
Doubled the recipe for a family of 5 picky people - thinking there might be leftovers for tomorrow...nope! All gone! Great recipe and easy, too! Thank you!!
HAHA!!! I love and hate when that happens! I am so glad your family enjoyed.
Have made this twice and believe this is the best and love the versatility ( spinach or meat or just cheese). Thank you for posting this recipe! 😃
I am so glad you enjoy so much Beth! Thanks for leaving a review.
Such a great recipe! Stuffed shells are a family favorite for sure!
YAY!! Love that you family enjoyed.
Hello! My dish is currently in the oven and the cheese on top is getting soggy instead of melting in top. Can you think of anything I am doing wrong? I used 2 eggs so I’m wondering if that was the problem. Or I put too much sauce? I’m so bummed!
Hi Sonny. Well, it could be several reasons. It may have been that you overstuffed your shells and the filling was leaking out into the filling, it may have been the type of cheese you used on your shells, or that you did put in too much sauce. However, I would place under the broiler and broil until melted. My hunch is the type of cheese of that you put the cheese on and then added more sauce possibly? Let me know and I can help further help trouble shoot.
Absolutely fantastic! Stuffed the shells with ground beef, which I prepared by sautéing some yellow onions and garlic before adding in the beef — simply amazing. Thank you for sharing! This is my new go to dinner when I’m looking for comfort food.
I am so glad this hit the spot Camilla!
I doubled the recipe and made one for my family and one for friends who just welcomed a new little one. These stuffed shells were a hit all around!
I love hearing that!! So glad you all enjoyed!