Stuffed Shells are the ultimate creamy, cheesy baked pasta dish. Made with a creamy ricotta filling, and smothered in tomato sauce and cheese, Baked Shells is the perfect recipe to make when you are craving an Italian comfort food!
Baked 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 marinara sauce and more cheese and baked to perfection.
There are not many people who can resist this classic recipe!
How To Make Stuffed Shells
Baked shells are really not hard to prepare, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner. But given how much everyone loves this recipe, I would certainly not limit to just the weeknights. This recipe is company worthy!
Step One: Prepare Shells
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.
- Season heavily with salt–this is your only opportunity to season your pasta!
- Boil jumbo shells for 9 minutes. This will let the shells be just tender enough to stuff, without being so soft that they fall apart.
- Drain–remember to NOT rinse your pasta. That will wash away flavor!
- Let the shells cool in the strainer until just cool enough to be handled. I typically whip up the filling while I wait for the shells to coo.
Step Two: Prepare Filling
- In a large mix bowl, mix together ricotta with egg, Parmesan, parsley, and seasonings.
Step Three: Stuff Shells
- Spread out 1/2 cup tomato sauce on bottom of casserole dish.
- Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture, about 1/4 cup filling per shell. I find using a spoon works perfectly to get the filling into the shell. Remember to not over stuff 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.
- Cover with additional sauce and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Step Four: Bake Stuffed Shells
- Bake until filling is baked through and cheese is melted and browned.
How to Freeze Stuffed Shells
When you have the time and the ingredients on hand, I strongly suggest preparing 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 shells up to baking as recipe states. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
To reheat frozen stuffed shells, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove shells from freezer and bake, covered for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the shells are warmed through.
Tips and Modifications for Stuffed Shells
- Stuffed Shells with Spinach: Chopped spinach makes a great addition to the ricotta filling. To add spinach, simply defrost 1/2 to 2/3 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 be watery! Mix the spinach into the ricotta filling and stuff the shells as 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 1/2 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.
- No Fresh Parsley? Feel free to use 1 teaspoon dried parsley in place of the fresh parsley in the ricotta filling.
- Can’t handle heat? If you do not like spice, omit the red pepper flakes.
- I love to use my homemade tomato sauce for this recipe, but any good quality marinara or spaghetti sauce work.
More Cheesy Pasta Recipes
- 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
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 3 cups marinara
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees 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 and then drain.
- In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt and pepper.
- In a 2-quart baking dish, spread ½ cup marinara sauce on bottom of pan.
- Spoon the ricotta mixture into the cooked shells and place into prepared baking dish.
- Top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the Mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.