Need a little comfort food? You can’t go wrong with these delicious, easy stuffed shells! Done in about an hour and the whole family will love them!
Sometimes Italian food can be time consuming, but not this stuffed shells recipe. Prep them ahead of time and throw them in the oven before dinner. You’re sure to have a tasty Italian dish by the time homework is done. You can check out some other delicious, Italian dinner ideas too!
BAKED STUFFED SHELLS
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What is the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?
Manicotti and Stuffed Shells are two Italian food favorites. Both loaded with tons of cheese, meat, and delicious marinara sauce, they’re often confused in discussion.
Manicotti translates to “little muffs”. The pasta used to make this dish is shaped like a large tube. The tubes are usually filled a mixture of cheeses and sometimes ground meat.
A bit different, stuffed shells are made with conchiglie pasta. This pasta is the larger version of what most of us refer to as conch shells. These shells are popular for cheese lovers! They hold a scoop of stuffing the size of an egg and contain your choice of meats, cheeses, and vegetables.
What are baked stuffed shells?
Baked Stuffed Shells are jumbo pasta shells filled with delicious ricotta cheese mixture and then baked in a red sauce. The large shells are topped with shredded cheese and marinara sauce. Then it’s all baked to a golden brown for the perfect combination of Italian flavors.
These stuffed pasta shells are simple to stuff, easy to bake, and a perfect option for everyone in your household. You can use your imagination and inspiration to create the perfect stuffed shells recipe for your family.
Stuffed Shells Ingredients
This ricotta stuffed shells recipe contains all of your favorite Italian food ingredients!
SHELLS – I like to use the large shells for this recipe because they’re the easiest to fill. Don’t fret if the local grocery store is all out. I’ve substituted different of pasta shells in the past and my biggest critics never noticed! Don’t forget to salt the water before putting the pasta in to cook!
SAUSAGE – I used Italian sausage for this recipe. Cooking it with diced onions and spices leaves the pasta tasting great. If you don’t eat sausage, you can substitute for ground beef or leave the meat out all together.
CHEESE – Traditionally, the recipe uses ricotta, parmesan, Romano, and Mozzarella. You can mix it up and try any cheese combination that your family loves including an Italian cheese mixture. Can’t find ricotta? Substitute it with the same amount of cottage cheese which holds a similar texture and taste.
If you have some extra time, you can make a double batch for meal prep. Then you can enjoy a second round in a few weeks. Frozen in a freezer-safe container, these shells will last a couple of months.
How to Make Stuffed Shells
- First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and coat the inside of your baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Once the pasta is going, place a large pot with water and salt on the stove to boil. Then place the pasta in the boiling water to cook for 9 minutes. It’s okay if it’s a little undercooked. That’s what you want because it will continue cooking in the oven.
- Next, place a large pan on the stovetop to cook the Italian sausage. Once browned, add onion and cook the mixture together for 4 additional minutes. Remove any grease leftover from cooking.
- Then you’ll add one jar of store-bought or homemade marinara sauce to the meat. Pour the mixture into a pan and spread it out evenly.
- After that, mix the ricotta cheese, half of the parmesan cheese, romano cheese, half of the mozzarella cheese, egg, salt and pepper, and herbs in a large bowl.
- Fill shells with this ricotta mixture and then place them over the meat sauce already in the pan. Place the shells open side down to keep all the cheese inside and the tops of the shells from getting hard.
- Pour the other jar of marinara over the noodles and spread to ensure they are covered.
- Use the remaining mozzarella and parmesan to sprinkle over the shells.
- Finally, place the dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. The shells are ready when the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling.
What to serve with stuffed shells
This delicious pasta can be enjoyed on its own or in combination with a couple of other courses!
My family loves to start off with an easy Wedge Salad when we are enjoying our Italian dishes. A few different dressings and even the kids indulge!
My personal favorite pairing with pasta? Grilled Parmesan Garlic Bread of course! This recipe cooks for less than 5 minutes on the grill!
If you’re still hungry after dinner, you can serve up some Watergate Salad for a light and fluffy dessert option!
Check Out these Other Italian Dishes that are sure to be Family Favorites
- Pasta Carbonara
- Creamy Chicken Florentine
- One Pot Alfredo Pasta
- Chicken Marsala
- Pizza Pasta Bake
- More dinner recipes…
Tools Used to Make this Easy Stuffed Shells Recipe
Mixing Bowl: These mixing bowls are perfect for mixing and serving. I love the varied sizes so I always have the right size bowl for all my mixing needs.
Baking Dish: This baking dish is a must-have for any home cook. I actually have two of them in my cupboard because I like them so much!
- 8 ounces large shells pasta
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage
- 1/2 yellow onion peeled and diced
- 48 ounces marinara sauce (2 jars)
- 30 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup Romano cheese shredded
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 10 fresh basil leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the inside of a large oval or 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook pasta in water for 9 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.
- In a large skillet, cook Italian sausage over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Break up the meat as it cooks. Add onion and cook for another 4 minutes until onions have softened.
- Drain grease from skillet. Pout 1 jar or marinara into the skillet and stir to combine. Pour meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread out into an even layer.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, garlic, egg, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley.
- Fill cooled pasta shells with ricotta mixture. Place in the dish over meat sauce, open side facing down. This will keep the cheese inside and the edges won't get hard.
- Spoon the remaining marinara sauce all over the shells.
- In a bowl, mix together the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan. Sprinkle evenly over shells.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly. Remove from oven and serve warm.