Classic Stuffed Shells

5 from 10 votes

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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!

close up stuffed shells on white plate

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.
stuffed shell cheese filling in glass bowl

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.

filled shells in pan

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.

Freezing Instructions

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.

stuffed shells in pan with cheese

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:

Cottage Cheese

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.

Mozzarella Cheese

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.

Parmigiano Reggiano

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.

baked stuffed shells in pan

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I have published lots of Italian Recipes through the years, but here are some of my favorites (and reader favorites, too!)

5 from 10 votes

Classic Stuffed Shells

Make amazing Stuffed Shells at home with this classic recipe. Filled with three cheeses, topped with Alfredo sauce and baked in a store-bought marinara. Lick your plates clean with this delicious recipe!
servings 40 shells
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
    cooked shells in collander
  • 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.)
    stuffed filling in bowl
  • Place the filled shells into the prepared pans, 20 shells per pan.
    filled shells in 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.
    stuffed shells in pan with cheese
  • Remove from oven and set 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.
    close up stuffed shells with sauce

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 411mg | Potassium: 160mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 223IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: stuffed shells recipe

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Recipe Rating




24 Responses
  1. Leighann H

    Also wondering what the preferred brand of alfredo would be? Is the nutritional information based on 1 shell?

    Can’t wait to try this one!

    1. Lauren

      I like the fresher alfredo sauces out of the refrigerated section, usually with the fresh pasta. But just make sure you use one you like! Yes the nutritional information is based off of 1 shell.

  2. Marilyn Brennan

    5 stars
    This recipe is just fabulous! I try to eat keto or low carb but I definitely went off that for this meal. It is heavenly.

  3. Maria

    5 stars
    I hadn’t realized before that this recipe makes 2 pans. So I was a little worried about that as I made it for the first time last night. There was no reason for me to worry as it was delicious! I’ve already had leftovers for lunch and dinner again! It’s so good and easy to make! Next time I’m going to try it with the Raos sauce and I’m sure we will love it even more! I might even be willing to give the second pan to someone else so they think I’m a good cook. Thanks Lauren!!

  4. Nicole

    5 stars
    This was so good! The flavor and the consistency were on point and it was incredibly easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly as posted, so there were no changes / substitutions made.

  5. Pat

    Can I divide this recipe into one 8×8 pan and one large roaster pan so we can’t give the larger one to our son’s family? Would baking time be the same for each pan?

    1. Lauren

      Slightly less time for the smaller pan, slightly more for the larger pan. You just want to make sure the egg in the filling gets cooked completely.

  6. Christine

    5 stars
    This recipe is so delicious!! I’ve made these twice now and they were perfect both times. I was skeptical of the cottage cheese instead of ricotta, but I never missed the ricotta and the flavor and texture are exactly what you expect stuffed shells to be. A definite winner!!! Oh, and this is an easy recipe to cut in half if you don’t want to make two 9×13 pans of shells.

  7. Jackie

    5 stars
    This was BEYOND delicious! We are meat eaters so I just had to add something to it. I simmered the marinara in ground beef and sautéed onion while prepping everything else and layered the bottom of the pan with the sauce/meat mixture then did the shells on top and followed everything else to a T and my goodness the creaminess of this dish was exceptional. It will definitely go into our rotation!

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