Stuffed shells are an easy and delicious dinner recipe. Four cheeses including ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone and parmesan make this the best!
This easy Italian dinner recipe is the perfect comfort food! I love making this meal and enjoying it with a nice glass of red wine, a ceasar salad, and some garlic bread!
STUFFED SHELLS RECIPE
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Stuffed jumbo shells with ricotta are one of my favorite recipes. Naughty? You bet. Full of carbs and fat? Oh yes. But does this meal satisfy? Definitely.
Italian recipes are our favorite go-to meals. Everyone in our family loves them and I enjoy any excuse to drink a glass of red wine.
You’ll find that this is a rather easy dinner to make and you can even double the recipe to prepare one in advance!
Do you need to boil the pasta first?
I remember making stuffed shells when I was younger. I would boil the pasta completely. Then I would get totally frustrated when I tried to fill the shells because the pasta either stuck together or they would fall apart.
Some people don’t boil the shells at all. They just stuff them and bake them.
My preferred method, however, is to boil them for only a few minutes. This starts the cooking process and softens them enough to easily stuff, but they are still firm enough to not fall apart. I find that a short boil like that will also prevent them from sticking to each other.
Stuffed shell ingredients:
- Jumbo pasta shells – these are found at most major grocery stores
- Eggs – these are the binder for the filling
- I was low on ricotta cheese but I had mascarpone in the refrigerator. Boy was that a happy mistake. I loved the combination!
- Whole milk mozzarella and parmesan – both grated
- Dried Italian seasoning, lots of fresh basil, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes for a small kick.
- Two jars of your favorite pasta sauce
Now, there are two main variations that are different than these cheese stuffed shells and that would be stuffed shells with meat and or stuffed shells with spinach.
If you wanted to add meat to your stuffed shells, people generally use ground meat or sausage. To do this, you would simply cook the meat until crumbly in a skillet, allow it to mostly cool, and then mix it with the cheese filling before you fill the shells.
If you wanted to make spinach stuffed pasta shells, my preferred method is to use fresh pre-washed baby spinach. Chop it up really small and then mix it with the cheese filling prior to filling the shells. If using spinach, cook the pasta even less because the spinach will release additional moisture that will help the pasta cook in the oven.
How to make stuffed shells:
- Start by preheating your oven and boiling a large pot of salted water. Cook the shells in the boiling water for only a few minutes. Then drain and set aside.
- To make the filling, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone and parmesan, reserving half the shredded cheeses for later. Mix in a couple eggs, herbs, garlic, salt and a bit of red pepper flakes for some heat.
- Fill the pasta shells. You can use a spoon or you can transfer the filling to a plastic bag, snip the corner off, and pipe the filling into the shells.
- Place the stuffed shells into a baking dish, smother them with pasta sauce, cover with the remaining shredded cheese, cover with foil, and bake. The moisture from the sauce will finish cooking the pasta shells.
- When the shells are just about done, I like to remove the foil and let them continue cooking for a few more minutes to really melt the cheese.
How to make stuffed shells ahead of time:
Italian recipes like this loaded with pasta, cheese and sauce are even better when prepared ahead of time. If you make this recipe the day before you’re planning on baking it, or if you stick it in the freezer, you give everything even more time to let all that flavor absorb.
To make ahead of time, simply prepare the entire recipe right up to the part where you stick the stuffed shells in the oven. Then, cover and store in the refrigerator if you’re planning on cooking within the next couple of days else the freezer for longer term storage.
Then, either bring the shells to room temperature before baking or increase the cooking time if the food is cold or frozen when it goes into the oven.
- 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 8 fresh basil leaves minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 56 ounces pasta sauce (two 28-ounce jars)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for only 3-4 minutes and then drain. You want to start the cooking process, but you need them firm enough to stuff. They will continue cooking in the oven.
In a large bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, mascarpone, half the mozzarella, half the Parmesan, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes until well combined. Stuff cooked shells with ricotta mixture by piping through a resealable plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Place stuffed shells in a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Cover shells with pasta sauce and then top with remaining shredded cheese. Cover with foil.
Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue cooking for another 5-15 minutes until edges are bubbly and cheese is melted.
Love delicious homemade Italian dinner recipes?
Then you should make these favorites:
- Homemade Pasta
- Granny’s Classic Homemade Lasagna
- Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup
- Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
- Four Cheese Ravioli
- Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
- Meat and Cheese Ravioli
- Ham and Pea Pasta Carbonara
- Cheesy Baked Rigatoni Pasta
- Dozen Veggie Pasta Primavera
- Cheesy Sausage Pasta Bake
- 10 Minute Lobster Pasta
- One Pot Cheesy Pizza Pasta Bake
- Homemade Alfredo Sauce
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Loaded Grilled Italian Sandwich
- Baked Italian Meatballs
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Easy Italian Stromboli