Stuffed Shells

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

Quick Summary

Stuffed Shells- Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a creamy, cheesy spinach filling, topped with rich marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and baked to perfection. This delicious dinner can be made in advance and it’s freezer friendly too!

stuffed shells with marinara sauce and cheese in pan with serving spoon.

Baked pasta dishes are so comforting and delicious. A few favorites include: baked ziti, baked spaghetti, baked mac and cheese, and manicotti.

I also LOVE Stuffed Shells. They are the perfect weeknight meal – hearty, delicious, and always a crowd pleaser!

The jumbo cooked pasta shells are stuffed with a creamy filling that is made up of three cheeses; ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. The filling also has garlic, spinach, and herbs for added flavor.

Smother the cheesy stuffed shells with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and bake until bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy a classic Italian meal. Comforting, cozy, and super satisfying!

And the best part? You can prepare this stuffed shells recipe in advance and the shells are freezer friendly too! This is also a great meal to take to loved ones when they are in need of a homemade meal, just add garlic bread and a salad.

ingredients in bowls to make stuffed shells.

Ingredients

  • Jumbo pasta shells– cook until al dente according to package directions. I always boil 24 pasta shells just in case some break, but you will only need 20 for the recipe.
  • Olive oil– for sautéing the veggies.
  • Spinach– use fresh spinach and give it a rough chop.
  • Garlic– minced. Use a sharp knife or garlic press.
  • Ricotta cheese– ricotta is a smooth cheese with a creamy, mild taste and a thick texture.
  • Egg– to bind the filling together.
  • Mozzarella cheese– I recommend buying a block of cheese and grating it. It will melt better than pre-shredded cheese.
  • Parmesan cheese– freshly grated!
  • Italian seasoning– the perfect blend of Italian seasonings and I always have it in the pantry.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes– for a little heat.
  • Marinara sauce– you can use homemade marinara sauce or store bought. Rao’s is our favorite store bought brand.
  • Fresh basil– for garnish.
cooked jumbo shells in colander to make stuffed shells.

How to Make Stuffed Shells

Scroll down to recipe card for full list of ingredients and instructions!

  • Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Don’t overcook the shells. Drain, and rinse with run cold water to stop cooking. Set the shells aside.
sautéed spinach with garlic in skillet with wooden spoon.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped spinach and sauté until wilted. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
stuffed shell filling in bowl.
  • In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, spinach mixture, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
marinara sauce spread at the bottom of a baking dish with spoon.
  • Spread 1 ½ cups of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
stuffed shells being filled with ricotta cheese filling.
  • Fill the pasta shells with the cheese and spinach mixture.
  • You can use a spoon or piping bag to fill the shells. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a gallon-size freezer bag, use scissors to snip the corner of the bag. You can use a spoon, but the piping makes it much easier!
stuffed shells with ricotta spinach filling in baking dish.
  • Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish in an even layer. It’s ok if they are close together and touching.
stuffed shells topped with marinara sauce in baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells.
stuffed shells covered in marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese in pan getting ready to be baked.
  • Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and cover the pan with aluminum foil.
baked stuffed shells in pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and broil for 2 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.
  • Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil. Serve warm.

Recipe Tips

  • Cook the jumbo shells in generously salted boiling water. The salt will give the shells flavor.
  • A few shells might break while cooking, so boil a few extra just to be safe.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta shells, cook until al dente, according to package directions. The shells will finish cooking in the oven.
  • Make sure all of the stuffed shells are covered with marinara sauce so they don’t dry out in the oven. Also, make sure you cover the pan with foil before baking. You can remove the foil the last few minutes of cooking to brown the cheese.
  • You can also broil the stuffed shells for a minute or two to brown the cheese.
stuffed shells covered in cheese in baking dish.

Recipe Variations

  • Kale– instead of spinach you can use kale. You can also omit the spinach and use a plain cheese filling.
  • Cottage cheese-use cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese for a boost of protein. I recommend using whole milk cottage cheese so it’s super creamy.
  • Lemon– add lemon zest to the cheese filling to brighten the flavors.
  • Fresh herbs– instead of using dried Italian seasoning, you can use chopped fresh basil, parsley, thyme, or a mix of herbs.
  • Nutmeg– add a pinch of nutmeg to the cheese filling for a slight sweetness. A little goes a long way so make sure you only add a little bit.
  • Add vegetables– finely chopped mushrooms, zucchini, or bell peppers would be a great addition to the cheese filling. Sauté in olive oil before adding them to the cheese filling. You might also like my roasted vegetable stuffed shells.
  • Meat sauce– instead of marinara sauce, use a meat sauce. I recommend using the meat sauce we use to make classic spaghetti. 
  • Add protein– you can add cooked chicken or Italian sausage to the cheese filling.
stuffed shells in pan with spoon.

Make Ahead Tip

Stuffed shells can be prepped in advance.

  • Follow the recipe, but don’t bake.
  • Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and keep the stuffed shells in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.
  • When ready to bake, remove from the fridge and and cook according to the recipe instructions. Add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time because you are starting with chilled shells.

How to Freeze Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are freezer friendly. Make a pan and keep in the freezer for a busy day!

  • If you plan on freezing stuffed shells, it is best to make them in a disposable aluminum pan so you can put the pan right in the freezer.
  • Prepare the stuffed shells, but don’t bake. Cover the aluminum pan with plastic wrap and aluminum foil (or the lid the pan comes with).
  • Label, date, and place in the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, bake the shells from frozen and add an additional 30 minutes to the baking time.
  • You can also freeze leftover baked shells in individual portions. Place cooled, cooked shells in individual freezer containers. Remove from freezer and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes or until heated through.

How to Store Leftovers

  • How to Store Leftovers: let the pasta cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • How to Reheat Leftovers: reheat individual servings in the microwave. You can also reheat a pan of stuffed shells in a 350 degree F oven. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
stuffed shells on plate with fork.

What to Serve with Stuffed Shells

If you want to serve a few side dishes along side the cheesy stuffed shells, here are a few good options.

close up of stuffed shells on plate.

More Pasta Recipes

Find all of our PASTA RECIPES HERE!

Email Yourself This Recipe
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus, you’ll get NEW recipes from us every week!

Stuffed Shells

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a creamy, cheesy spinach filling, topped with rich marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and baked to perfection. This delicious dinner can be made in advance and it's freezer friendly too!
5 from 4 votes

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Don’t overcook the shells. Drain, and rinse with run cold water to stop cooking. Set the shells aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped spinach and sauté until wilted. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, spinach mixture, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  • Spread 1 ½ cups of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Use a spoon to fill the pasta shells with the cheese and spinach mixture. Place in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and broil for an additional 2 minutes to lightly brown the cheese.
  • Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil. Serve warm.

Notes

I always boil 24 pasta shells just in case some break, but you will only need 20 for the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 494kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 115mg, Sodium: 988mg, Potassium: 692mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 3278IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 560mg, Iron: 3mg
Keywords marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, stuffed shells

Have you tried this recipe?

Leave a comment below and share a photo on Instagram. Tag @twopeasandpod and hashtag it with #twopeasandtheirpod

Get the best of the best!
4 Recipes Guaranteed to be New Favorites

Maria

I'm Maria and my husband is Josh. We share a love of cooking, baking, and entertaining. We enjoy creating recipes that are simple, fresh, and family friendly. We love sitting around the table with good food, good conversation, and good friends and family! Our kitchen is always open!
Read More

Vegetarian Summer Fall Spring Winter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Comments

Leave a comment

  1. 5 stars
    These were soooooo good!!!!! Nice and simple and yet full of flavor and richness. I’m not sure we’ll be able to go a full week without having this again.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you! This was exactly what we needed for a week night easy dinner. love the chopping of the spinach before you add it in. No stings of spinach hanging out.