Filled with mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta cheese and baked in a rich marinara sauce, this mouthwatering cheese stuffed shells recipe is going to transport you straight to Italy!
This is a dish I made all the time when we first got married because I could make the giant stuffed shells with cheese ahead of time and then just get out whatever we needed based on how hungry we were, if we had company, etc. It’s one of Ricky’s favorites but for some reason I guess I got busy with other dishes and forgot about this one for a while. As a result, we haven’t had it in years until I made it yesterday.
This cheese stuffed shells recipe makes about 35 to 40 cheese-filled shells for your freezer, depending on how many come in your box. This is enough for 3 to 4 meals for us.
Either way, there is enough cheese to generously fill them all and oh my goodness, they are so good once they are baked in a rich marinara sauce. But don’t go thinking you have to disrupt the ease of the meal by making your marinara from scratch (unless you just want to). I’ve found that the cans of spaghetti sauce (Hunt’s or Del Monte brand where I live) are the perfect size for this.
With parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, these giant stuffed shells are comfort food at its finest.
- Jumbo shells
- Ricotta (or cottage cheese)*
How to Make Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells
To start with, bring a big pot of water to a boil and then cook your shells for half the full time recommended on the box. For these, that means 6 minutes. You want them slightly undercooked so that they won’t get mooshy later on.
Take all other ingredients and place in a large bowl. Stir this up until really well blended and fully combined. Or until it looks like mashed potato salad.
After your shells are cooked, drain them in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Drain again.
To stuff each jumbo pasta shell, place it in your hand and squeeze it open like an old-fashioned change purse. Put a good spoonful of the inside (I use a serving spoon) and then let it close back up again.
Repeat this until all shells are finished, placing them onto a greased or waxed paper-lined baking sheet after filling.
Place this baking sheet in the freezer, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the shells are frozen and hard again. This will keep them from sticking together when you put them in bags for longer term freezing.
Place frozen ricotta cheese stuffed shells in gallon-sized zipper seal freezer bags and return to the freezer until you need them.
When ready to bake these stuffed cheese shells, place a little bit of marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Or you could make our easy spaghetti sauce as well.
Top with however many frozen shells you want to bake.
Spoon more sauce over the top. Cover this with a lid or foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Enjoy your !
Store pasta leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Your freezer bags will also be good for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before following the rest of the baking directions.
- Instead of ricotta cheese stuffed shells, you can definitely use cottage cheese. I just get whichever one is cheapest whenever I make this meal.
- If you want to add vegetables to your stuffed shells, opt for a cup of thawed frozen spinach, because spinach and ricotta are always a winning combination. Other options (I’d add 1/2 cup of whichever you choose): chopped broccoli florets, bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini.
- For a bigger cheese factor, only add half of the mozzarella to the cheese filling and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top in the last 10 minutes of baking.
- Can’t live without meat? You can add some cooked ground beef to your cheese filling, but you’ll want to cook and cool it before adding it to the mixture.
- For more flavor, add a teaspoon of basil or Italian seasoning and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
What do you serve with ricotta stuffed shells?
While this is the main dish in itself, I recommend serving it alongside a simple salad like my tomato, onion, and cucumber salad. You can also serve them with my parmesan crisps or some classic garlic bread too.
How many does this recipe for cheese stuffed shells serve?
As I said before, this recipe makes about 35-40 cheese stuffed shells. People often ask me “How many does this recipe serve?” and my immediate mental response is “How hungry are you?“. Because, truthfully, I cannot tell you how many a recipe will serve in your family. There are too many variables.
- How hungry are you?
- Are you serving sides with it?
- What are the ages of your children? A sixteen-year-old boy will easily eat as much as two ten-year-olds in many cases (I have proof).
- What is a serving size to you? For example, in a casserole some would consider a 2×2-inch square to be a serving size, for others, it may be a 4×4-inch square. This is going to make a huge difference when it comes to how many “servings” you get out of a dish.
After you cook for your family for a while you should be able to look at a 9×13 or an 8×8 casserole dish, think about it for just a moment, and know how far that dish of food will go for y’all, taking into account if you are serving anything along with it.
Serving amounts are entirely relative to the meal, the situation, and the people eating.
My best advice is to look at the size of the dish the meal is being cooked in so you know the volume of food being produced and can then compare that to your family’s size and eating habits. I have a family of four with two adults, one teenage boy, and one tween girl so most of my recipes serve four, sometimes with enough left over for a lunch or two, which just means less work for me the following day.
- 1 box jumbo pasta shells
- 32 ounces ricotta cheese can also use cottage cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese or whatever kind of parmesan you can easily acquire
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 can marinara sauce 28 ounces
- Cook the giant pasta shells according to the box directions for 1/2 of the recommended time. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Drain again.1 box jumbo pasta shells
- In a large bowl, place all of the other ingredients and stir until well blended.32 ounces ricotta cheese, 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Take shells, one at a time, and stuff with a large spoonful of the cheese filling.
- Place the stuffed shells on a greased or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Once all shells are stuffed, place the sheet in the freezer for about an hour, or until shells are frozen hard. Remove the shells and put them in gallon-sized zipper seal freezer bags and return them to the freezer for longer term storage.
- To bake: Spoon 1/2 of a jar or can of marinara sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Top with the desired amount of shells. Spoon more sauce over the top of the shells. Cover this with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until shells are heated through and the sauce is bubbly.1 can marinara sauce
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“As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.”