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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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Homemade Garlic Bread
- Craigo’s Breadsticks
- Caprese Salad Recipe
- Caesar Salad Recipe
- Roasted Asparagus
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Cauliflower
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 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.
- 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.)
- Place the filled shells into the prepared pans, 20 shells per 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.
- Remove from the oven and let the shells set for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.