These jumbo stuffed shells are filled to the brim with three cheeses, Italian seasoning, and encased in marinara sauce. It’s the cheesy, saucy goodness you’ve been craving.
What are Ricotta Stuffed Shells?
These ricotta stuffed shells are a spin on traditional Italian conchiglioni. The large seashell-shaped pasta shells are filled with a tasty three-cheese (ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella) blend, seasoned with Italian seasoning and basil, then baked in a savory marinara sauce. The result is a cheesy pasta dish that is comforting, hearty, and crazy easy to make — it checks all the boxes!
How to Make Stuffed Shells
For this stuffed shells recipe, you’ll need a pot to boil the shells, a bowl for the stuffing mixture, and a baking or casserole dish for the assembled shells.
- Cook the shells: Cook the pasta shells in salted water four minutes shy of package instructions.
- Combine the stuffing ingredients: In a large bowl, combine and stir together two cups of mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, egg, and basil.
- Spread marinara sauce on the bottom: Spread 12 oz of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.
- Fill the shells: Fill each shell with the ricotta cheese mixture and place into the baking dish.
- Top the shells: Top the shells off with the remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Bake: Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is slightly golden.
Hot tip: Place the shells seam up in the baking dish so the filling doesn’t leak out.
Stuffed Shell Variations
To add more gusto to your stuffed shells, add or swap out these ingredients.
- Veggies: Add in sauteed bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, or kale to the ricotta mixture.
- Protein: Traditional stuffed shells don’t have meat, but if you are a meat-lover, add cooked ground beef, italian sausage, turkey, or chicken to the filling. We like to add ground beef, making the stuffed shells taste similar to lasagna.
- Sauce: For a major flavor twist, switch out the marinara sauce for vodka sauce or alfredo sauce.
- Cheese: Stuffed shells are great options for cheese-lovers. Add more or swap out any of the cheeses with your favorites.
Tips from the Kitchen
Just like stuffed shells are meant to be shared, we like to share our top tips to make your shells taste amazing.
- Cook the jumbo shells al dente: To cook the shells al dente, or slightly firm, cook about four minutes short of the cooking time on the package. Drain the water and set aside until ready to stuff. The shells should be al dente so they can hold the cheese filling without falling apart. If overcooked, the shells become too soft and may rip.
- Swap out the pasta: Instead of jumbo pasta shells, use jumbo tubes.
- Use quality marinara sauce: We love to use our homemade marinara Sauce. The sauce plays a big role in the flavor, so you want to love the sauce you use.
- Cover the dish: For the first 15 minutes, cover the dish in the oven. This will allow the shells to soak up the marinara and ricotta flavors.
- Garnish at the end: Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or basil before serving.
Ways to Serve
Serve these filling ricotta stuffed shells with a light side salad or veggies. We love to pair the shells with a fresh avocado salad, classic garden salad, or a simple one-veggie side dish like oven roasted brussels sprouts and asparagus.
Storing and Reheating Baked Shells
After these stuffed shells are baked, it is best to store them in the refrigerator. To store cooked shells for up to three to five days, place cooled shells in an airtight container and refrigerate. To reheat the shells, microwave until warm or place in the oven at 375°F until warmed through.
To have stuffed shells ready to go on a busy weeknight, prep the meal a day ahead of time or consider keeping a batch in the freezer for up to three months. If you freeze the shells, thaw the frozen shells overnight in the refrigerator, or bake directly from frozen for about 60 minutes when covered, then another ten minutes uncovered.
- To make one-day ahead: To make stuffed shells one day ahead of time, cook the jumbo shells and stuff with ricotta filling. Place the stuffed shells and marinara sauce in a baking dish into the refrigerator.
- To freeze without the sauce: To freeze without the marinara sauce, cook the jumbo shells and stuff with ricotta filling. Place the shells in a container and freeze for about two hours. Once frozen, transfer the stuffed shells into a zip-lock bag or freezer container. When ready to bake, pour marinara into a baking dish and place frozen shells into the sauce.
- To freeze with the sauce: To freeze with the sauce, prepare the stuffed shells according to the recipe up to the baking step. Instead of baking, place the entire baking tray into the freezer.
Why are my stuffed shells watery?
Stuffed shells can become watery if the ricotta cheese has too much excess liquid. To fix this, strain excess liquid from the ricotta cheese or remove it with a dry paper towel.
What’s the difference between stuffed shells and manicotti?
Manicotti are long pasta tubes whereas stuffed shells typically use conchiglioni, a seashell-shaped pasta. Both types of pastas are often stuffed.
More Pasta Recipes
- Homemade Pasta – Make your own tasty pasta!
- Creamy Tuscan Chicken Pasta – Bursting with garlic, tomato, spinach, and cheese flavor
- Beef Stroganoff – Tender strips of beef and mushrooms in a creamy sauce
- Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo – The classic shrimp alfredo with a creamy parmesan sauce
- Cook pasta shells 4 minutes short of package instructions.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan cheese, two cups of mozzarella, Italian seasoning, egg, and fresh basil. Stir to combine together.
- Spread 12 oz of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (9X13 size).
- Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and place it in the baking dish.
- Top the shells off with remaining marinara and mozzarella. Cover the dish with a lid or foil.
- Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes or until cheese is a lightly golden color.