Picture large seashell shaped pasta filled with oodles of cheese. You now have the beginnings of this glorious stuffed shells recipe. Those cheese filled pieces of joy are placed on a bed of marinara sauce, topped with more cheese, and baked to golden, creamy perfection .
If you are in the mood for comfort food – like who isn’t right now – then you are going to love this baked pasta dish!
These ricotta stuffed shells have been one of my favorite dishes to make for my family. It does take a bit more fuss to make then many of my other dishes, but the results are so worth it.
Just know that you have to plan for a little more assembly time. The good thing is that this recipe can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months! You may even want to engage friends or family members to help, visit with, and have fun.
Cooking With Kids
You may even want to get your kids involved with some of the steps, especially squeezing the stuffing into the shells! Learning to enjoy cooking by squeezing ooey gooey cheese into shells sounds pretty good to me!
- Make sure the shells are completely cooled.
- Set up an assembly line.
- Start filling the shells.
- Place shell into the baking dish.
- Place cheese slice on top.
- Help clean up.
How to Make Stuffed Shells From Scratch
Boil shells in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook for 3/4 of the time listed on the box.
Spread marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.
Adding egg yolk to cheese and parsley mixture.
Arrange mozzarella slices on top of shells.
Remove shells from the pot and transfer to a colander. Rinse with cold water and let drain.
Chop parsley. This is the correct way to hold the knife and herbs to chop.
Using a spoon, fill the shells with the cheese mixture.
After baking, the cheese on top will be gloriously browned.
You will want to use the whole box of shells even if you think there are more than you will need. Some shells may break or tear during cooking or handling so it is nice to have extra shells.
What I Love About This Recipe
- It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.
- Leftovers refrigerate or freeze well.
- Cheese and more cheese!
- Easy ingredient substitutions or variations. Check out the recipe notes for ideas.
Stuffed Shells Recipe
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 cups ricotta cheese preferably whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded low-moisture mozzarella see tip
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ounces thickly sliced low-moisture mozzarella see tip
- 3 cups Homemade Marinara Sauce, divided or 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
- Dried oregano
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook shells, stirring occasionally, for 3/4 of the time listed on the package for al dente. Drain shells, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.
- In a 4 quart casserole dish, spread 2 cups marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish.
- In a large bowl, gently whisk eggs and egg yolks. Stir in ricotta, shredded mozzarella, 3/4 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large resealable plastic bag. Cut off a tip of one quarter, enough to make a 3/4 inch diameter hole.
- Squeeze filling, evenly divided, into shells and arrange them filling side up on top of the marinara sauce. Drizzle remaining marinara sauce around the shells. Top with mozzarella slices. Cover dish with foil and bake, 35 minute or until shells are almost al dente and the sauce is slightly bubbling. Remove foil and cook 7 to 10 more minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano. Serve with remaining grated parmesan on the side.
- Without Ricotta: Replace the ricotta cheese with an equal amount of small curd cottage cheese.
- With Meat: Add 1-lb 80/20 ground beef and cook until beef is crumbled and no longer pink. (I use a wire potato masher to break up my beef.) Drain beef. Reduce marinara sauce to 2-1/2 cups. Stir beef into 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce and spread over the bottom of the dish. Continue with step 4.
- With Spinach: Reduce the shredded mozzarella to 1 cup and the Parmesan cheese to 3/4 cup. Add 5 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dried of liquids to the cheese mixture. Check to see if you need to cut the opening larger on the resealable bag because the mixture will be thicker. Alternatively you can use a spoon to fill the shells.
- With Sausage: Add 1/2 lb ground Italian pork sausage and cook until pork is crumbled and no long pink. Stir pork into 2 cups marinara sauce. Continue with step 3.
Some Quick FAQs About Jumbo Shells
- What are stuffed shells called?
Pasta shells are called Conchiglie, which in Italian means seashells.
- How many jumbo shells are in a 12 oz box?
A box of jumbo shells contains 35 to 45 shells depending up on the brand and the size of the shells. A 12 oz box of Barilla® jumbo shells will contain about 35 shells. A box of Creamette® jumbo shells will have about 45.
- How do you boil jumbo shells?
Boil jumbo shells in a large pot of boiling water. If some shells start to stick together do not pull them apart. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking further.
- How long do you cook pasta shells for?
Cook jumbo shells 3/4 of the time listed on the box for al dente. For example if the box says boil for 12 minutes for al dente, you will boil them for 9 minutes.
- What do you serve with stuffed shells?
A tossed green salad with an Italian Vinaigrette and slices of French bread pair wonderfully with this pasta dish.