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Make amazing Stuffed Shells at home with this classic recipe. Pasta shells are filled with three cheeses, topped with Alfredo sauce and baked in a delicious store-bought marinara. So so delicious served with Homemade Garlic Bread and Cucumber Tomato Salad. Lick your plates clean with this delicious recipe!
Stuffed Shells: the Easy Way!
I’m so excited to be sharing this Stuffed Shells recipe with you today! After testing this recipe and having five devoted readers test this recipe too, I am thrilled that I can finally share it with you. The larger pasta shells are par-boiled, filled with a mixture of cottage cheese, mozzarella and parmesan cheese and nestled in a rich marinara. Topped with a little alfredo sauce and extra cheese and baked to perfection. You will fall in love with this recipe.
While I have a couple of recipes for stuffed shells on my site, I wanted to make sure I had a classic recipe that was fail-proof and delicious! Using really good store bought alfredo and marinara sauce are my secrets to getting this on the table fast while still tasting amazing. Rao’s is my all-time favorite if you can find it!
Main Ingredients Needed
Even though this looks like a fancier, Sunday-type dinner, don’t be fooled! It couldn’t be easier and this ingredients list is pretty darn straight forward:
- Large Pasta Shells: I use a 12 oz. box which ends up being about 40 shells give or take a few extra. It is a big recipe and makes a lot!
- Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese: I love this combination of these three cheeses. Especially the protein boost from the low fat cottage cheese.
- Basil and Oregano: classic spices for a baked pasta dish!
- Eggs: acts as a binder for the cheese filling
- Marinara Sauce: I love the Rao’s brand for this recipe and highly recommend it. If you have a problem shelling out $8 a bottle, find one that you really love!
- Alfredo Sauce: I highly recommend using an alfredo sauce you love! Worst case scenario, you can make your own.
How to Make Stuffed Shells | Directions
The biggest secret to making these stuffed shells is using these disposable pastry bags to fill them. It makes life SO much easier and the whole process really quick. If you don’t have the disposable bags, use a sturdy freezer bag and snip a 1-inch hole in the corner to pipe. Of course spoons are a simple way to fill them too, it just is a little more time consuming.
Step 1: Cook the Pasta Shells
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add shells and cook according to package directions. I like cooking mine for a few minutes less than the recommended time so they stay sturdy as you fill them but then soften up as they bake in the marinara sauce.
Step 2: Make the Filling
In a large bowl, stir together cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper until well combined. Spoon into piping bag and set aside.
Step 3: Fill the Shells
After you drain the pasta, rinse with cold water. Pour two entire jars of marinara sauce into your two baking pans. Using the piping bag, fill the par-boiled shells and place them into the marinara sauce, 20 shells per baking dish.
Step 4: Top with Alfredo Sauce and Bake
Spoon pre-made Alfredo Sauce over the shells and top with more mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil to brown the cheese.
These Stuffed Shells are one of the best recipes to freeze! They freeze so beautifully and bake up perfectly from frozen! To freeze, simply make the shells according to recipe directions below, being sure to place in disposable pans. Then before freezing, simply wrap well with heavy duty foil and freeze for up to four months.
To bake, transfer stuffed shells from freezer to hot oven. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or until hot and bubbly. Remove the foil to brown the tops or simply broil for the last few minutes.
A Note about Cheese
In this recipe, I stuff my shells with a combination of three cheeses: cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmigiano reggiano. For best results, please read these notes:
I use low fat cottage cheese in my stuffed shells because I prefer the taste and texture much better than a more traditional ricotta. After it bakes, it melts together and is smooth and creamy through and through. Ricotta isn’t quite as smooth and tastes a little different.
Can I substitute Ricotta Cheese for Cottage Cheese in Stuffed Shells?
If you would like to substitute ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese, just be aware that because it’s thicker, it will fill less shells. Expect to get about 30 shells total.
For good mozzarella that melts beautifully, you will want to look for a block of whole milk low moisture mozzarella and grate it yourself. The pre-grated kind will work but doesn’t melt as nicely because of the food starch it’s coated in (to prevent the shreds from sticking to each other). Also, fresh mozzarella adds extra moisture and doesn’t grate well at all, so I’d recommend the firmer low moisture mozzarella.
Please please please don’t confuse parmigiano reggiano with a regular (pre-grated) parmesan cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano is real parmesan cheese that you will want to grate yourself that has it’s name stamped on the rind. Most grocery stores will have the Parmigiano Reggiano close to the deli section with more specialty cheeses, like brie, feta and goat. Of course you *can* use the pre-grated kind, but just know it won’t be as good as it could be.
Love Stuffed Shells? Try These Other Italian Favorites:
I have published lots of Italian Recipes through the years, but here are some of my favorites (and reader favorites, too!)
- Best Ever Lasagna Recipe
- Italian Sausage Peppers Pasta
- Browned Butter Alfredo Pasta
- Amazing Italian Cream Cake
- Easy Cannoli Recipe
Classic Stuffed Shells
- 12 oz pasta shells 1 box, about 40 shells
- 4 cups low fat cottage cheese
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese divided
- 3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 48 oz marinara sauce 2 jars of Rao's recommended
- 15 oz alfredo sauce 1 jar
- chopped fresh parsley optional, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain. Pour both jars of marinara sauce into the bottom of two 9×13 baking dishes, one jar per pan.
- In a large bowl, stir cottage cheese together with 1 cup mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Fill disposable piping bag (or large freezer bag) with filling. Snip the end of the bag to create a 1-inch hole and fill each shell. (Spooning it into the shells also works, it just takes a little more time.)
- Place the filled shells into the prepared pans, 20 shells per pan.
- Spoon prepared alfredo sauce overtop the filled shells. Sprinkle the tops with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella (1/2 cup cheese per pan), cover with foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for remaining 15 minutes to brown the tops.Alternately, you can keep the pans covered for the full 45 minute bake time and broil the tops at the end of the cooking time.
- Remove from oven and set 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.