These easy and simple ricotta stuffed shells are filled with savory ricotta and mozzarella then baked on a bed of flavorful marinara (storebought or homemade!)

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Ricotta Stuffed Shells! These easy and simple ricotta stuffed shells are filled with savory ricotta and mozzarella then baked on a bed of flavorful marinara (storebought or homemade!) | HomemadeHooplah.com

About Ricotta Stuffed Shells

When it comes to pasta, I like to keep it simple. A little sauce, a little cheese, a little flavor, and just like that, we’re good to go for dinner.

Which, of course, is exactly what I adore about ricotta stuffed shells. They’re like tiny beds of pasta filled with savory cheeses on a bed of red sauce. What more can you ask for from a pasta dish?

Well, okay, I guess you could ask for more – and an old friend of mine usually does when I make this. He’s the type that prefers to have beef or pork for dinner, so while I’m over here excited about cheese, he’s busy telling me that’s not enough for him.

But that brings me to the second reason why I love this recipe:

It’s super easy to customize.

Want to add some spinach? Go ahead!

Feel like adding some ground beef, ground sausage, or shredded chicken? Feel free!

It’s easy to include any additional fillings you want.

How to make ricotta stuffed shells.

If you want to add more fillings, how do you do it?

If you’re like an old friend of mine and craving something a little “more” than just a cheese filling, it’s easy to change this dish to your liking.

When planning out the recipe, all you need to do is make two changes:

  • First change – Adjust the recipe from 2 cup ricotta, 2 cup mozzarella, and 2 eggs to 1 cup ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1 egg.
  • Second change – Add in up to two cups worth of any filling your choice.

Once you’ve made these adjustments, just mix your new chosen fillings in the ricotta, cheese, and egg. From there you can fill the jumbo shells as instructed in the recipe.

What kind of fillings can you add?

We’ve tried the following fillings and loved them. However, I do want to stress that any fillings (especially meat) should be cooked first. Do not add raw meat fillings to the shells. Raw veggies are okay, depending on the type or your preference. The general rule of thumb I use is that if you wouldn’t eat it like it is before adding it to the shells then cook it first. And if you’re ever in doubt or unsure, you can just save yourself the guesswork and cook it.

  • Cooked and crumbled ground sausage.
  • Cooked and crumbled ground beef.
  • Cooked shredded chicken.
  • Spinach (we used frozen spinach that had been thawed and drained).
  • Mushrooms, cooked and tender.

Can you freeze cheese stuffed shells before baking?

Yes, you totally can!

For best results, assemble the stuffed shells (by filling the pasta with prepared ricotta mixture), then store the shells in a freezer container or bag.

Stuffed shells should keep the best quality for two to three months, but should not be frozen for longer than six months.

When ready to bake, just add marinara sauce to a dish, arrange stuffed shells inside, pour any remaining marinara sauce on top, and bake the stuffed shells for five to ten minutes longer than instructed in the recipe.

Can you freeze cheese stuffed shells after baking?

Bad news here, guys. While you technically “can” freeze this dish after baking, I can’t recommend doing it.

The reason for this is because the texture of the ricotta can change once frozen. And while that’s not a big deal before baking, when all of the ingredients are separate and haven’t melted together, it becomes a different story once everything is creamy together. You’ll also be freezing the marinara sauce with the pasta, making it harder to check the filling and see how it’s faired while frozen.

However, if you simply have to freeze this recipe after baking, take these steps:

  • When baking, instead of spraying the baking dish with cooking spray, line it with aluminum foil.
  • Before freezing, allow the dish to come to room temperature. Use the foil to lift the pasta out of the baking dish, then transfer it (and the foil) to a sealable container of your choice. The foil will help lock in moisture and hopefully prolong the life of the ricotta.
  • When ready to bake, allow the pasta to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then transfer the foil+pasta to a baking dish. Heat in the oven at 360 degrees F for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Jumbo shells stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella.

More great pasta dishes

Notes & tips for ricotta stuffed shells

  • When working with jumbo shells, be prepared to discover two things: many of the shells will be broken in the box and many of the shells will tear while cooking. I wish I had some tips to help prevent this but I think it’s just the nature of the beast. I deal with it by always buying extra shells and/or cooking more shells than I think I will need. Pasta is the cheapest ingredient in this recipe, so if you have to pick, it’s better to have too much of it than too few.
  • I like using my own homemade marinara sauce for this recipe so that I can control the consistency and flavor. Feel free to use any red sauce you prefer, whether it’s storebought, homemade, marinara, or classic pasta sauce.

How to make this easy stuffed shells recipe

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Cook the jump shells one minute shy of the package instructions, then drain. Place the cooled shells in a shallow bowl to cool.

Step 2 – In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta and egg until nice and creamy, then use a spatula to fold in the shredded mozzarella cheese.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Add ricotta. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Add egg. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Mix egg and ricotta well. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Mix egg and ricotta well. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Add mozzarella. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Mix in mozzarella well. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 2 - Mix in mozzarella well.

Step 3 – Get your 9×13 baking dish ready by pouring half of your chosen sauce (I like using homemade marinara) into the bottom and then spreading it out with a spatula.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 3 - Pour in red sauce. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 3 - Smooth out red sauce.

Step 4 – Once the shells have cooled, pick one up and hold it in your weaker hand while you spoon the creamy ricotta mixture inside with the other (check the recipe instructions or the recipe video for a detailed tutorial my method for this). Once the jumbo shell is filled, place it in the baking dish, seam side up. Arrange the shells in the baking dish however you like (I like to do three columns of six to eight shells).

Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 4 - Start with an empty jumbo shell. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 4 - Spoon in the filling. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 4 - Fill until full. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 4 - Place finished shell in the baking dish. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 4 - Repeat until all shells and filling is used.

Step 5 – When all the shells are in the dish, pour in the remaining half of the red sauce, focusing on the areas between the shells and around the corners.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 5 - Pour the renaming sauce on top. Ricotta Stuffed Shells Step 5 - Pour the renaming sauce on top.

Step 6 – Bake!

Step 7 – Serve and enjoy!

This recipe was originally published on April 8th, 2015. It was updated with new photos, revised recipe, and text on August 13th, 2018.

Easy stuffed shells recipe with marinara.

Recipe Details

Ricotta Stuffed Shells! These easy and simple ricotta stuffed shells are filled with savory ricotta and mozzarella then baked on a bed of flavorful marinara (storebought or homemade!) | HomemadeHooplah.com
3.94 from 48 votes

Ricotta Stuffed Shells

20 mins prep + 40 mins cook
792 kcal
Yields: 4 servings (5 shells per)
These easy and simple ricotta stuffed shells are filled with savory ricotta and mozzarella then baked on a bed of flavorful marinara (storebought or homemade!)

Ingredients 

  • 4 cup marinara sauce store bought or homemade
  • 12 oz jumbo shells at least 18-22 whole shells
  • 2 cup ricotta whole milk
  • 2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 large egg

Instructions

  • Check jumbo shells; discard any that are broken, making sure you have at least 18-22 whole shells. Cook jumbo shells per package instructions, reducing cook time by 1 minute. Drain, cover, then set nearby. Note: plan to cook a few more shells than you need, as jumbo shells have a tendency to break or tear while cooking.
  • Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour half of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish, using a spatula to smooth it out into an even layer. Set dish nearby.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together egg and ricotta. Add mozzarella to bowl, then fold it into the ricotta mixture. Set bowl nearby.
  • To fill the shells: Cup a jumbo shell in your weaker hand, facing the shell so that the tighter curl of the shell is close to your thumb and the looser part rests on your palm or other fingers. Use your thumb to pry open the shell, then scoop in the ricotta cheese mix. When shell is filled, place it on top of the marinara sauce, seam side up. Repeat this step until all shells are filled.
  • Pour the remaining marinara sauce on top of the shells, focusing on filling the gaps between the shells.
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil, then bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  • Allow dish to cool for 5 minutes (or until the sauce stops bubbling) then serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 792kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 199mg | Sodium: 1778mg | Potassium: 1206mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 2120IU | Vitamin C: 17.2mg | Calcium: 601mg | Iron: 4.8mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I'm not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating




25 comments

    • Iris
    • 5 stars

    I did the 1 egg and 1 cup of ricotta. I added salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. I used 1lb of motzarella cheese cut into small cubes instead of shredded. I also sprinkled parmesan cheese before baking. I usually follow the recipe from the stuffed shells but I didn’t ha e ir this time. My husband said to save this recipe because it was the best he’s ever had!

    • Laney
    • 5 stars

    My mother gets bad heartburn but loves stuffed shells. When they come over for dinner I usually make 2 small pans of these. 1 with marinara and 1 with alfredo sauce. Served with salad and garlic bread, the whole family can enjoy. Thanks for this❤

    • maryme jo suff

    I cook mine with egg yokes much more plavoer

    • Virginia Burdick
    • 5 stars

    Enjoyed the stuffed shells. I purchased a new box, and all the shells were intact Did them in two batches and ended up with enough for two dinners. I had bought a lot of cheese and ricotta, so the last batch I was able to stuff and freeze. Spinach and mixture the first batch, and I had some leftover shredded chicken. Mixed that in with the remainder of the spinach mixture and am freezing those. So much fun! Have homemade artisan bread for dinner, tonight, also!

    • san

    I make and freeze these all the time. I freeze them before cooking on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper, separate them and freeze. Then take them out and put them in a zip lock bag and they are ready to use, just take out what you need put them in a baking dish with sauce and bake. TADA!!

    • Jen
    • 5 stars

    Made this recipe tonight and fell in love. I have a somewhat picky toddler and a pasta loving hubby. Both said this was the best. Thank you for the awesome recipe and great photos. We will be making this again soon.

    • Joe C
    • 5 stars

    I usually add some Parma cheese along with the ricotta, and less mozzarella, and add some mozzarella over the top of the dish towards the end of cooking, my wife likes when I add some spinach to the cheeses, for color and protein ! And can’t forget the eggs, for that creamy texture that really adds to this dish.

    • Nicole Mikloiche
    • 5 stars

    To make the stuffing of the shells easier you can use the trick of using a ziplock bag as a pastry bag. Just put the cheese egg mix into a ziplock bag, close the top, and cut a hole in one corner. Then just pipe (squeeze) the filling into the shells. My mom would always make the cheese mix when she got home in the mid afternoon and let it sit in the fridge. It has time to bind together better and overall you get a firmer filling and less spillage during the bake. I really love this dish because it is usually well received, it isn’t difficult to make, it doesn’t create a giant mess to clean up, you can feed an army and have leftovers for lunch and the total cost of the ingredients is quite inexpensive for the yield.

    • Steve

    Looking at this recipe through bleary New Years Day eyes 🙂 I’m going to give this one a try today 🙂

    • Linda Gimnich

    Three questions: # 1. What do you think about freezing these after they are cooked? Just checking to see if anyone else has done this. #2 What about making them up and freezing them BEFORE cooking? Any problems with that? #3 When estimating how many of these to make, how many do you assume the number each normal eating adult would have? THANKS!

    • Alice

    I love stuffed shells! It’s been awhile since I’ve made any, you’ve inspired my meal plan for sure! It takes all of us awhile to get the hang of blogging 🙂

    • Olivia @ livforcake

    I think these photos are GREAT! They definitely make me wish I could eat through my monitor. The only thing I’d suggest is a pop of green somewhere, like some parsley, but the quality of the photos is awesome.

    I struggle with photos a lot too, I think I’m getting better but some of the ones on my blog are just not good (according to me). The Pink Ombre Cake for example, the photos are just dull. I even tried to edit them in Lightroom last night, no good. So I’m moving on. Photography is one of the things I’m really working on too and it takes a lot of practice. And over a hundred photos to get a handful of good ones.

    I commend you for redoing this recipe multiple times to get the pics right. I can’t be bothered! Terrible, I know. I will sometimes retake pics the following day if the food allows (eg. cookies), but otherwise I try to salvage what I have.

    Do you use a photo editing program? I’m doing a trial of Lightroom now and I have noticed a significant improvement in my pics.

    • Thanks Olivia! I totally agree about the green – I think I had some in my other shoots for this dish but then it totally slipped my mind this last time. Oops!

      I primarily use Photoshop for my photos, but that’s just because I feel more comfortable with it – I have a armature background in graphic design so it’s layout is familiar to me. I want to like Lightroom since it’s supposed to be THE photography tool, but I open it up and I’m overwhelemed by the controls. Although, one thing I have learned that applies to both Photoshop and Lightroom is that 85% of your editing can just be done in the RAW image settings. I’m slowly learning the tricks and so far it’s much easier to manage than blindly applying filers and presets and hoping for the best. I’m hoping to write a basic guide on image editing soon, once I finalize what I *think* I’ve learned. Those kind of guides tend to go over better when the author can show she actually knows what she’s talking about, though, so I’ve still got some work to do there 😀

        • Olivia @ livforcake

        I’ve tried using Photoshop before, but have no experience in it and find it difficult to use. THAT one overwhelms me with controls, haha. Photoshop is supposed to be just as good from what I hear…

        I haven’t tried shooting in RAW yet. I need to but I’m intimidated by it for some reason. The huge file size is a bit of a turn off too and I need to sort out my storage before I go that route. I have a hard time permanently deleting photos from anywhere :|.

        I look forward to your guide! 😀

    • nibbles by nic

    What’s better than a authentic stuffed shells! NOTHING! YUM!

    • Anna @annaDishes

    I love stuffed shells. Theses look great! …and now I’m craving some.

    • Kimberly Ann @ Bake Love Give

    Great pictures! I totally get holding out until you’re 100% satisfied. Keep at it – you’re doing great! And this recipe needs to hit our dinner table ASAP. 🙂

    • Thank you very much! I hope you guys like it 😀

    • Debra @ Bowl Me Over

    I agree, I think your pictures are terrific and the dish looks amazing too! I can’t wait to enjoy this at our home!

    • Thank you Debra! Pictures always look a little better after I’ve “slept on it”, so I’m feeling a little better about it today, but I’ll still keep trying with this one 🙂 It just gives me an excuse to make more stuffed shells!

    • Jenna Johnson

    I love the pictures, nice job! I also love stuffed shells. Must make soon!

      • jeffrey polissack

      you for got to put the egg in the ingredients list, unless there was a reason… well i commented on your site before these are extremely good recipes easy enough for even myself who cant boil toast to follow, i don’t think i ever had 1 that came out liek the picture but they were good and i enjoy learning so i plan to make this today ty very much for this web site keep it going!! ( i need major help :P)

        • ROSEMARIE
        • 5 stars

        I saw 2 eggs in the list of ingredients. Enjoy the recipe. YUM.