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.
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
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
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.