Ricotta Stuffed Shells are the ultimate comfort food. This simple recipe, brings together amazing flavors for a dish you will come back to over and over. To really take this recipe over the top, use my homemade spaghetti sauce.
As you may know, part of my childhood was spent growing up vegetarian. So for a time, on major holidays – like Thanksgiving or Easter – we didn’t eat those big traditional meat dishes. Instead, my mom would make amazing stuffed shells.
This Stuffed Shells recipe really only has a handful of ingredients, but they come together in such a magical way. The smoothness of the ricotta and the perfect taste of mozzarella cheese come together with herbs and spices and then is smothered in my homemade spaghetti sauce. The whole combination will have you falling in love with this classic.
How to Make Stuffed Shells
- Cook the shells. Please see my tips below for the very best cooked pasta.
- Make the filling. In a bowl combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper.
- Fill the shells. I love using a ziplock bag for this. Add the filling to a bag, cut off the tip, and pipe the filling into the shells.
- Put it all together and bake. Add some sauce to the bottom of a baking dish, then add the stuffed shells, seam side up. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for five minutes. Serve and enjoy.
Cooking pasta seems like the easiest thing in the world, but there are a few things to remember that make it absolutely perfect. Here are a few tips specifically for stuffed shells.
- Be sure to use enough water. We are going to be cooking a whole pound of pasta so you want to use between 4 and 6 quarts (16 to 24 cups) of water.
- Bring the water to a raging boil. You should see really big bubbles before you add the uncooked shells.
- Cook an entire pound of shells. We are only using 25. That being said, I like to cook the whole box because it is easier and because if any rip, I have back ups. Plus my kids like to munch on the extras.
- Salt the water. When you add the uncooked pasta, add a teaspoon of kosher salt with it.
- Cook the pasta for the time indicated on the box. Since this is going in the oven after boiling, you want to aim for the lower end of the cooking time if there is a range.
You will note that both above and in the recipe card, I encouraged you to use a ziplock bag to stuff the shells. It really does make it go much much faster. Just fill the bag with the cheese filling. Get out as much air as you can. Seal the bag, and then cut off the tip. Place the tip of the bag in the shell and then pipe a small amount of filling in each shell.
Using Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
If you have the time, I highly encourage you to make my 25 minute spaghetti sauce for this recipe. Though the recipe calls for diced and crushed tomatoes, I encourage you to use just crushed for this recipe. This recipe makes six cups of sauce, and you only need four, but I encourage you to make the whole recipe so you get to have extra.
If you don’t have time to make homemade sauce, and believe me, I get it, grab a jar of your very favorite spaghetti sauce, and you will still love these stuffed pasta shells.
Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
Grating Cheese for Stuffed Shells
This recipe calls for an impressive 3 1/2 cups of cheese – three cups of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. I am going to impress upon you how much I want you to grate your own cheese for this. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in preservatives the make it difficult for it to melt. By shredding your own cheese from a block, you ensure that the cheese is perfectly melted and delicious.
Making Stuffed Shells Ahead
These ricotta stuffed shells can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Just assemble them, following the recipe through step four. Then cover them and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them. Keep in mind that given they are coming out of a cold refrigerator, you are going to want to bake them for 5 to 10 minutes longer.
If you would like to freeze the shells, make them in a disposable baking dish. This will allow you to take them right from the cold freezer to the hot oven without worrying about the baking dish cracking.
Make the shells through step four. Cover with aluminum foil. Wrap three times with plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to three months. When you are ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, keep the shells covered, and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Stuffed Shells Variations
If you love this recipe but want some great spins on it, you must try the following two:
- Chicken Stuffed Shells – In this recipe we are swapping some of the cheese for chicken and broccoli and we are covering it all in a homemade Alfredo sauce you will fall head over heels for.
- Taco Stuffed Shells – Take everything you love about tacos and stuff it in pasta shells for a perfect spin that will make your kids flip.
Frozen shells can be placed right from the freezer into the preheated oven. Add 15 to 25 minutes to the baking time. Please see more detailed instructions above.
Stuffed shells only take 35 minutes to bake at 375 degrees. Make sure to remove the foil after 30 minutes to get the cheese nice and bubbly.
Yes! There are a number of gluten free shells on the market, and given that there is no other source of gluten in this recipe, this is an easy one to make gluten free.
While that is not my favorite swap, it is definitely an option if you don’t like ricotta or can’t find it. Cottage cheese will work as a replacement in this recipe.
What to Make with Stuffed Shells
If you make this stuffed shells recipe or any of my other recipes, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!
- 25 jumbo shells see my notes in the post for how to cook
- 1 large egg
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese shredded and divided
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated and divided
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt, cut this to 1/2 a teaspoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 28 ounces spaghetti sauce divided (read here about using homemade sauce)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Cook the shells according to package instructions. Make sure the water is at a full boil before you put in the uncooked shells. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the water, and set a timer so that the pasta is drained just before it is al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and black pepper. Add the mixture to a large ziplock bag and then cut off the tip. Use this to pipe the cheese mixture into the shells.
- Pour 1 cup of sauce onto the prepared casserole dish to coat the bottom. Place the filled shells, seam side up, in the pan. Top with the remaining sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Serve, and enjoy.