Classic Stuffed Shells (with Cottage Cheese)

5 from 19 votes

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These pasta shells are filled with cottage cheese, plus mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano, topped with Alfredo sauce, and baked in a delicious marinara. So delicious when 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!

After testing this recipe and having five devoted readers test it too, I am thrilled that I can finally share this Stuffed Shells recipe with you. While I have a couple of recipes for stuffed shells on my site (Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells, Alfredo & Vegetable Stuffed Shells and Crockpot Pesto Stuffed Shells), I wanted to make sure I had a classic recipe that was fail-proof and delicious! 

The larger pasta shells are par-boiled, filled with a mixture of cheeses, and then nestled in a rich marinara. Topped with a little Alfredo sauce, extra cheese, and baked to perfection. You will fall in love with this recipe.

Using good Alfredo and marinara sauce is my secret to getting this on the table fast while still tasting amazing. Rao’s is my all-time favorite, but you can use any brand you love! Worst case scenario, you make homemade alfredo sauce and marinara sauce (aka bolognese without the meat).

A Note about Cheese

I stuff my shells with three kinds of cheese: cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is making a come-back y’all! I use cottage cheese instead of the traditional ricotta because that’s how my grandma and mom made it, so I kinda have to. After it bakes, it melts together and is smooth and creamy through and through. Ricotta isn’t quite as smooth and will carry a different flavor profile, but is still amazing.

Can I substitute Ricotta Cheese for Cottage Cheese in Stuffed Shells?

Yes, of course! Just be aware that because it’s thicker, it will fill fewer shells. Expect to get about 30 shells total.

Mozzarella Cheese

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. Also, fresh mozzarella adds moisture and doesn’t grate well at all, so I’d recommend the firmer low-moisture mozzarella.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Please, don’t confuse Parmigiano Reggiano with regular (pre-grated) parmesan cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano is real parmesan cheese that you will want to grate yourself. Of course, you *can* use the pre-grated kind, but just know it won’t be as good as it could be.

Do I Really Have to Use Eggs?

You don’t *have* to use eggs, however, the filling won’t hold together quite as well. But the taste will be there!

Can I Add Veggies to the Filling?

Absolutely! I would suggest something classic and simple like wilted spinach, steamed broccoli, or riced cauliflower for taste and nutrition.

stuffed shell cheese filling in glass bowl

How to Make Stuffed Shells

The secret to making these stuffed shells is using these disposable pastry bags. It makes life SO much easier and the whole process really quick. You can also 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.

Cook the Pasta Shells

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook shells according to package directions. I like cooking mine for a few minutes less than recommended, so they stay sturdy as you fill them but soften up as they bake in the marinara sauce.

Make the Filling

Stir together cottage cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper until well combined. Spoon into a piping bag and set aside.

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 shells and place them into the marinara sauce, 20 shells per baking dish.

Top with Alfredo Sauce and Bake

Spoon Alfredo sauce over the shells and top with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil 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.

filled shells in pan

Storing Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells can be stored either in the baking pan or individual containers. They will last for up to four days in the refrigerator. To reheat, simply cover and bake in the oven or microwave until heated through.

Freezing Instructions

To freeze, simply wrap the shells in heavy-duty foil and keep them in the freezer for up to four months.

To bake, put in the preheated oven at 375° F for one hour or until hot and bubbly. Remove the foil to brown the tops or broil for the last few minutes.

stuffed shells in pan with cheese

What to Serve With Stuffed Shells

This stuffed shells recipe goes perfectly with cooked vegetables, bread, salads, you name it. Here are some tasty ideas to get you started:

baked stuffed shells in pan

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!)

close up stuffed shells with sauce
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5 from 19 votes

Classic Stuffed Shells

Make amazing Stuffed Shells at home with this classic recipe. Filled with three kinds of cheese, topped with Alfredo sauce and baked in marinara. Lick your plates clean with this delicious recipe!
servings 40 shells
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes


  • 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 a large pot of salted water to a 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 with 1 cup mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Fill a disposable piping bag (or large freezer bag) with the 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 over the filled shells. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cup of mozzarella (1/2 cup cheese per pan), cover with foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for the remaining 15 minutes to brown the tops.
    Alternatively, 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 the oven and let the shells set for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.
    close up stuffed shells with sauce



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

34 Responses
  1. Lisa

    5 stars
    Everyone loves these!! They are fabulous!
    But I have a question.
    Can you prep these up the day before and store them uncooked in the fridge then bake them the next day without them getting weird.

  2. Lesley Jacksch

    5 stars
    Great recipe!!! I make shells all the time for our vegetarian family. Will try yours now. This will now be a nice change for them.

  3. Linda

    5 stars
    I made these tonight and I have to say they were the BEST stuffed shells I’ve ever had!! I think the addition of the Alfredo sauce is what put them over the top!

  4. Lisa

    5 stars
    I don’t leave reviews on recipes. However, this one definitely deserves one. I’ve never made shells before. I used this recipe for my first attempt. I used homemade pasta sauce and homemade Alfredo sauce. These turned out awesome! So awesome in fact, that I’ve made them twice in a month. They get rave reviews from friends and family. my parents even want to pay me to make some to use as a meal to take to someone. Also, they keep asking me to make them more too, and they’ve only had my leftovers!

  5. 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!

  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. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.