Prepare to fall in love with this easy dinner!

These stuffed shells are filled with ricotta cheese, spinach, and herbs. It’s all tucked into jumbo pasta shells and baked with marinara and more cheese.

This stuffed shells recipe is easy, cheesy comfort food.

plated Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe with dish full in the background

Savory Stuffed Shells

  • Stuffed shell recipes are meatless, filling, and flavorful.
  • Three cheese stuffed shells are easy but impressive to make or to gift since everyone loves a hearty and comforting casserole.
  • Prepare it ahead of time and pop it in the oven after a busy day, so easy.
  • Perfect as a vegetarian meal but carnivores love this recipe too!
ricotta , egg , spinach , marinara , parmesan , pasta shells , seasonings , and mozzarella with labels

Ingredients for Stuffed Shells

  • Pasta Shells This recipe uses jumbo shells which can be found in almost any grocery store. Feel free to swap in manicotti or turn the filling into lasagna roll-ups.
  • Ricotta Cheese – This is the creamy base for the filling, for a budget-friendly option, replace it with cottage cheese.
  • Spinach Use frozen chopped spinach or replace the frozen spinach with fresh cooked spinach.
  • Filling Egg helps hold the filling together, while parmesan cheese and seasonings add flavor.
  • Marinara Sauce – Store-bought or homemade marinara, either works great. For a twist, try Alfredo or cheese sauce.
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Gives that bubbly, golden top. Try different types of cheese or use an Italian blend of shredded cheese.

Recipe Variations

  • Add cooked ground Italian sausage, ground beef, ground turkey, or diced chicken into the filling mix.
  • Up your veggie intake with diced bell peppers, finely chopped cooked broccoli, shredded cooked zucchini, mushrooms, or shredded carrots.
  • Stir in some chopped shrimp or crab meat or other favorite cooked seafood.
  • Swap the seasoning for Italian seasoning or add in a few red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce to heat things up.

How to Make Stuffed Shells

  1. Cook Shells: Cook pasta shells al dente.
  2. Prepare the Filling: Prepare the filling as directed in the recipe below.
  3. Fill & Bake: Gently scoop or pipe the cheese mixture into each shell and place in a casserole dish. Top with cheese & bake.

Add in a side of garlic bread and a tossed salad for a delicious meal!

Tips for Perfect Pasta

Stuffed shells are easy to make, here are a few tips for perfection!

  • Extra Shells: Cook a few more pasta shells than you need, as some might break during boiling or stuffing.
  • Al Dente Pasta: Don’t overcook the shells (rinse under cold water to stop cooking). They should be cooked al dente (firm) as they’ll continue to bake in the oven.
  • Sauce on Bottom: Spread marinara sauce in the baking dish before placing the stuffed shells to prevent sticking.
  • Easy Filling: A piping bag or a zip-top bag with a corner snipped off makes filling the shells a breeze.
cheesy Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe in the dish

Make-Ahead Meal & Leftovers

  • Prep Ahead: Assemble this stuffed shells recipe and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. If it’s chilled from the fridge, you may need to add 10 minutes of extra cooking time.
  • Freezer-Friendly: When freezing unbaked stuffed shells, follow the recipe but hold off on that cheese topping. Make sure the filling is cool. Then, wrap your dish tightly first with plastic wrap, then foil. It will be good in the freezer for up to a month. To serve, thaw the casserole overnight in the fridge before baking. Add 15 minutes to the cooking time.
  • Leftovers: Store leftover stuffed shells up to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350°F.

More Make Ahead Favorites

Here are a few more make ahead favorites:

taking Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe out of the dish

More Cheesy Pasta Favorites

Did your family love these Stuffed Shells? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

baked Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe
5 from 77 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe

Jumbo shells stuffed with creamy ricotta and hearty spinach, baked to perfection in a zesty marinara sauce and topped with bubbly, golden cheese!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 servings
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Ingredients  

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese about 2 cups
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry
  • cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly spritz a 9×13" baking dish with non-stick spray.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells and cook until al dente, per package instructions. Drain, then immediately run under cold water to stop cooking.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, spinach, ⅓ cup of Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, dried parsley, basil, oregano, and pepper. Transfer this mixture to a piping bag or a large zippered bag and cut off ½-inch at the end.
  • Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  • Fill each pasta shell with the ricotta mixture and arrange them in the baking dish, ensuring the filling is divided evenly. You might have to squish the shells a little to fit.
  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with mozzarella and the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Video

Notes

  • Cook a few extra shells in case any break while filling.
  • Use a piping bag or freezer bag to pipe the filling. Shells can also be filled using a small spoon.
  • Prep Ahead: Assemble this stuffed shells recipe and pop them in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. If they’re chilled from the fridge, you may need to add 10 minutes of extra cooking time.
  • Freezer Friendly: When freezing unbaked stuffed shells, follow the recipe but hold off on that cheese topping. Make sure the filling is cool. Then, wrap your dish tightly first with plastic wrap, then foil. They’ll be good in the freezer for up to a month. To serve, thaw the casserole overnight in the fridge before baking. Add 15 minutes to the cooking time.
5 from 77 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 429 | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 1435mg | Potassium: 663mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 5500IU | Vitamin C: 9.2mg | Calcium: 545mg | Iron: 2.9mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Dinner, Entree, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American, Italian
plated Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe with a fork and a title
Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe on a spoon with writing
Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe with marinara sauce and writing
Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe on a plate and on a spoon with a title

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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

    1. Hi Jackie, at our local grocery store they sell traditional and extra smooth ricotta by the container. It has a creamy texture that is perfect for this recipe. You can also try making it with regular ricotta, cream cheese, or cottage cheese if you’d like! :)

  1. Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! Followed the recipe exactly, but also added some garlic powder to the filling. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

  2. This was truly an amazing recipe!! I’ve tried to make stuffed shells before and they came out soupy/ soggy and the flavor wasn’t there. It came out perfect and very flavorful. Next time I may use a tad less salt but that’s just my preference. Very excited to have found this recipe and will make again!5 stars

  3. I made this for my kids and husband. However, I added ground sausage and used manicotti noodles instead. One of my favorites, it was delicious!!!5 stars

    1. I am so glad your family enjoyed this recipe Shannon! Sausage sounds like a delicious variation!

  4. Can’t wait to try this out with our Easter lunch. I plan on making this ahead. How much extra time would you recommend for frozen sauce and shells?

    1. I would suggest defrosting in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Bake covered at 350°F for about 35-40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.

  5. Easily put together. Tastes great. I did add a little nutmeg as I always add it to spinach. I then froze the left over stuffed shells and threw them in a freezer where they will be easy to grab for a couple more meals since there is only two of us.5 stars

  6. My girlfriend is a vegetarian and I wanted to make something for our pot luck viewing party she would enjoy.
    I altered the recipe just a bit…
    Not a big ricotta fan so I used 1/2 ricotta and 1/2 small curd cottage cheese. Also doubled the herbs but NOT THE SALT and added 2 cloves of garlic…
    They were DELICIOUS and I received many compliments,5 stars

  7. In order to make ahead, freeze. Do I simply prepare as instructions and then freeze or leave the marinara until ready to bake? Can they be frozen in baggies in order to only bake what is needed? Sometimes I am doing dinner for several and then again sometimes it is only for me.

  8. Hi there. Just wondering about the egg that is “divided” in this recipe? I don’t see any mention of whites or yolks in the instructions for the recipe, just to add the egg to the filling mixture.
    Thanks,
    Kelly

      1. Hi Paula, I have only made this recipe as written. The egg helps to bind the cheese mixture together but you can try omitting it and see how it goes, I think it would still work!