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.

A person using a large serving spoon to scoop stuffed pasta shells out of a casserole dish.

This recipe is…

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.

All of the ingredients needed for stuffed pasta shells on a marble surface.
  • 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.

Cooked and crumbled Italian sausage in an enameled cast iron skillet.
A person using a rubber spatula to stir together a cheesy ricotta mixture and cooked and crumbled Italian sausauge for stuffed pasta shells.

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.

Top view of a casserole dish with marinara sauce spread in an even layer on the bottom.
A casserole dish layered with marinara sauce on the bottom and stuffed pasta shells on top.

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.

A person sprinkling shredded mozzarella cheese over top stuffed pasta shells topped with marinara sauce.
Top view of a casserole dish with stuffed pasta shells topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese after coming out of the oven.

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!

Recipe Tips

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.

Two plates of stuffed pasta shells (topped with cheese) next to a casserole dish with the rest of the stuffed pasta shells.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between stuffed shells and manicotti?

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!

Can you freeze stuffed shells?

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

4.96 — Votes 23 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings
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.

Ingredients  

  • 16 ounces jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

Nutrition

Calories: 909kcal | Carbohydrates: 76g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 187mg | Sodium: 2008mg | Potassium: 974mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1398IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 479mg | Iron: 5mg

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian-Inspired
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories: 909
Keyword: stuffed pasta shells

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About the Author

Cassy Joy Garcia, NC

Cassy Joy Garcia, a New York Times best-selling author, of Cook Once Dinner Fix, Cook Once Eat All Week, and Fed and Fit as well as the creative force behind the popular food blog Fed & Fit.


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Recipe Rating




42 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    First time making shells! Made this last night for supper and was a hit! My two year old helped himself to seconds 🙂 Used Italian turkey sausage. Delicious!

    1. 5 stars
      My family loved this dish! It will definitely be going into our rotation.

  2. 5 stars
    Really fantastic recipe. I’m not a fan of Italian sausage so I used ground beef instead and there were no leftovers. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    My whole family loved this. My husband said “keep that recipe- it was so good”

    1. Yay! That is awesome, Shannon! We are so happy y’all loved it!

  4. 5 stars
    Our family loved this recipe! My young kids find Italian sausage too “spicy” so I swapped it out for ground beef. It was still flavorful and we will be adding it to our meal planning menu.

    1. Awe yay! We are so happy the whole family was able to enjoy it, Bailey! Thank you so much for taking a moment to share!

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for my family for Valentine’s Day- it might just be our new tradition! It took a little time getting it together, but was very straighforward and easy to follow (no watching 6 pots/timing worries). Would definitely recommend!

    1. Awe! That is so sweet, Mary! We are so happy y’all loved it!

  6. 5 stars
    This recipe is a classic! It requires a bit more time to prep since you have to stuff the shells but the outcome is delicious. I would also debate that this recipe can serve 10-12 ppl. I made it for 9 adults and have plenty of leftovers. Yummy and definitely recommended!

    1. We are so happy you loved it, Suzanne! Thank you so much for taking a moment to share!