In the mood for some seriously good comfort food? Enter Stuffed Pasta Shells. We’re talking about big pasta shells stuffed with a mouthwatering Italian sausage, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese mixture, and then topped with marinara and MORE cheese. It’s like a warm, cheesy hug for your taste buds, and I can guarantee that it’ll be your new favorite dinner.
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There’s just something about stuffed pasta shells that makes them an all-time favorite in any Italian food lover’s book. Picture it: tender pasta shells cradling a rich and savory filling of Italian sausage, creamy ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and a generous sprinkling of Italian seasonings. It’s the kind of comfort food that not only warms your belly but also your heart, and let’s face it, who can resist a dish that’s basically a cheese lover’s dream come true?
Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or just starting out in the kitchen, these stuffed pasta shells are an easy crowd-pleaser that won’t disappoint. They’re perfect for a cozy family dinner or for when you want to impress your friends at your next gathering.
Looking for more easy pasta recipes? Check out our reader favorite no-boil pasta series: Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake, No-Boil Pasta Bake with Italian Sausage, Baked Feta Pasta, and Pesto Chicken Pasta Bake.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Comfort food at its most sophisticated – stuffed pasta shells are comforting and hearty – they’re perfect for those days when you crave a little extra TLC on your plate!
- Easy to prepare – despite their impressive appearance, stuffed pasta shells are surprisingly simple to make. Even if you’re not a seasoned chef, you CAN make this recipe!
Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe Ingredients
As far as ingredients go, you’ll need jumbo shells, Italian sausage, a handful of other ingredients for the cheesy filling, and marinara sauce. Find ingredient notes (including substitutions and swaps) below.
- Jumbo pasta shells – these can be tricky to find, especially if you’re looking for a gluten-free option. We used these Tinkyada shells and had great luck with them!
- Marinara sauce – if you’re looking for a great one, Rao’s is forever and always our favorite marinara sauce.
A full ingredient list with exact amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
Recipe Variations and Modifications
- Make it gluten-free – use gluten-free shells and bread crumbs to make this recipe gluten-free. That’s what we did, and it turned out GREAT!
- Make it dairy-free – this one is a little trickier since this recipe calls for so much cheese, but thankfully, there are so many great dairy-free options out there now. Find a dairy-free ricotta and a dairy-free mozzarella, and you’re in business!
How to Make Stuffed Pasta Shells
You’ll start by cooking the sausage, boiling the pasta, and making the filling. Then it’s just a matter of stuffing, adding marinara, topping with cheese, and baking – super simple! Follow along below for the full how-to.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a pan on the stovetop over medium heat, cook sausage to a fine crumble. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan (leaving the pan drippings behind). While the meat is cooking, boil the water for the pasta shells in a 5-quart pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Once at a rolling boil, add the shells and boil for 17 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes so that the shells don’t “nest” into one another.
Step 2: Make the cheesy filling mixture by adding the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and eggs and the meat.
Step 3: Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, and spread it out in an even layer.
Step 4: Drain the noodles and pull out the unbroken shells and place in the baking dish face up (about 6 wide and 10 deep). Add 1 tablespoon of filling in each shell.
Step 5: Pour the rest of the marinara on top of the filled shells. Top with 1 ½ cups of finely shredded mozzarella. Then, bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.
Step 6: Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper. Serve and enjoy!
We’ve purchased these jumbo shells a number of times and have found that there are times when almost all of the shells are intact and other times when a bunch of them are broken. Don’t stress if they’re broken – this recipe was actually written with that in mind. IF they’re all intact, though, you may end up with more shells than you actually need. You can either discard extras, toss the extras with olive oil, salt, and pepper and save them as a simple noodle side for the next night’s meal, or fill all of your shells with slightly less filling and create a second layer of stuffed shells in your casserole dish.
How to Serve
Serve your pasta shells all on their own (they’re filling and delicious!) or next to a nice side salad if you’re looking for an accompaniment. This Italian side salad would be delicious, or, if you’re looking for something even simpler, this simple lemon arugula salad is always a favorite.
If you’re looking to make this meal a real Italian restaurant experience, consider whipping up some homemade cheesy garlic bread to go alongside the stuffed shells! Yum!
How to Store and Reheat
Store any leftover shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stored this way, the shells will last for up to 4 days.
To reheat, either pop a few shells on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 1-2 minutes or place them back in an oven-safe dish to bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, until warmed through.
Frequently Asked Questions
The biggest difference between the two is simply the shape of the pasta itself. Manicotti are tube-like while shells are seashell shaped. Both are meant to be stuffed with yummy, usually cheesy fillings!
Yes, you can absolutely freeze your stuffed shells. To do this, simply follow the directions through assembly, then wrap the dish tightly in foil. When you’re ready to reheat, you can bake the shells from frozen at 375°F for about an hour. Keep them covered with foil for the first 30 minutes, then uncover them and continue to bake for the last 30 minutes.
If you tried this Stuffed Pasta Shell recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!
Classic Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 16 ounces jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2½ cups finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- 32 ounces marinara sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Cook sausage to a fine crumble. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan (leaving the pan drippings behind).
- While the meat is cooking, boil the water for the pasta shells in a 5 quart pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 17 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes so that the shells don’t “nest” into one another.
- Make the filling: add the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and eggs and the meat.
- Prepare the baking dish: Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a dish.
- Drain the noodles and pull out the unbroken shells and place in the baking dish face up. (about 6 wide and 10 deep). Add 1 tablespoon of filling in each shell. Pour the rest of the marinara on top of the filled shells. Top with 1 ½ cups finely shredded mozzarella (a little pile on top of each shell).
- Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper.
- Serve and enjoy!