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Simple Stuffed Shells Recipe with Ricotta Cheese

Hey Y’all! In this post I’ll be sharing a scrumptious dish with you of a simple stuffed shells recipe with ricotta cheese filling.

It’s the kind of dish that brings the family together, filling your kitchen with laughter and your belly with warmth.

We’re talking tender pasta shells stuffed to the brim with a rich blend of ricotta cheese, and a few more simple ingredients (including a store bought marinara to keep things easy), all baked to golden perfection.

Whether it’s a Sunday supper, weeknight dinners, or a special gathering, these cheesy delights are sure to make everyone at your table smile from ear to ear!

Y’all, let me share a couple of reasons why I love this recipe so much. It takes just a few ingredients, the recipe is perfect for cooks of any skill level, busy parents and kids love it, and you can customize the flavors to suit your own taste buds.

So let’s head to the kitchen friends and let me show you how I like to put this classic stuffed shells pasta meal together.

Easy Stuffed Shells

casserole dish with stuffed shells and a blue and white plate with stuffed shells with ricotta cheese filling with a simple salad and piece of Italian bread.

Friend, if you love easy dinner recipes then this stuffed shells recipe is for you! It is delicious!

And, in case you’re wondering…

Can you freeze stuffed shells? Yes, you can.

How to freeze stuffed shells? I like to transfer the leftovers to a foil baking pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil to freeze.

How to reheat stuffed shells? If you’re reheating refrigerated leftover stuffed shells, cover with foil and place into a 350°F oven for thirty minutes or until heated through.

If you’re reheating leftover frozen stuffed shells: preheat your oven to 400°F, place your foil covered pan into the hot oven and bake for one hour, or until hot and bubbly.

Now, I will say this from my own experience, that while the frozen leftover stuffed shells are good, fresh baked are the very best. 

Classic Stuffed Shells

Ingredients on a wooden cutting board for stuffed jumbo pasta shells

Here are the simple ingredients that you’ll need:

(There is also a printable recipe card at the end of the post with all of the details)

  • Jumbo Pasta Shells
  • Rao’s Marinara Sauce – or use your favorite grocery store bought marinara or homemade sauce. I used Rao’s to keep things super easy with this recipe and because it is known for its high quality ingredients. You might also like my homemade meat sauce for this recipe.
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Large Eggsthe eggs were evidently out late the night before and didn’t show up to the photo shoot above, but they are indeed an important part of the recipe.
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Prepared Basil Pesto – or use fresh basil.
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper
  • Italian Seasoning (optional, but recommended)

If you want to season and spice up your cheese mixture more then go for it friend. Garlic powder, onion powder, or red pepper flakes for a bit of heat would also be tasty too.

Jumbo Pasta Shells

pot of water simmering jumbo pasta shells for making stuffed shells with ricotta

The first step is to get those jumbo shells cooked al dente. Just follow the package directions for whatever brand of pasta you’re using but the basics are to add some cold water to a large pot and place it on the stove top over medium-high heat.

Place a lid on the pot will get it boiling faster. Once the water is boiling, remove the lid, add a pinch of kosher salt to the water and add the pasta. Give it a stir to make sure the shells aren’t sticking together. 

Set a timer! The important thing to do in this step is not over cook the shells since they are going to be baking later.

Prepare the Creamy Ricotta Cheese Filling

mixing bowl with ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan Reggiano, eggs, basil pesto, and seasonings for stuffed shells filling

While the pasta is cooking we can move to the next step, which is preparing the cheese filling.

In a medium sized mixing bowl add the ricotta cheese, half of the shredded mozzarella cheese, half of the grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese, a couple tablespoons of basil pesto (I love the Kirkland, btw, taste just like freshly made), the eggs, salt and pepper.

Stuffed Shells with Meat or Without – Your Choice

stuffed pasta shells filling made with ricotta

Use a spatula and give the ricotta mixture a good stir to combine everything together.

If you might be wondering why I like to use pesto, it is because I usually have it on hand and it is bold in that basil flavor with olive oil, pine nuts, and cheese. Plus, most of the time the fresh basil at my local store looks not so great.

Other options for the filling mixture: you can add meat like cooked ground beef, cooked Italian sausage, or cooked chicken if you like. Veggies would also be great if you’re wanting to add onions, bell pepper, or spinach.

The Cheese Mixture

stuffed shells filling in a food safe Ziplock bag for piping the filling into the shells

Next, transfer the creamy ricotta cheese mixture to a piping bag or ziplock bag. I find that this amount of cheesy filling is much easier to handle when put into two gallon sized bags rather than a large one.

By the way, I would like to mention that the cheesy filling is freezable. So, if you want to make a smaller portion of stuffed shells, or stuffed ricotta, freeze the rest of the ricotta filling for another meal.

Stuffed Shells

cooked jumbo pasta shells in a colander

Once the cooking time is up for the pasta, carefully pour the hot water and shells into a colander to drain well. I like to place the colander holding the pasta over a bowl to catch any more water that might drain away.

Allow the shells to cool enough to handle.

Putting it all Together

marinara in bottom of a glass rectangle baking dish - stuffed shells recipe

Next, add about a third of the jar of marinara red sauce to the bottom of a rectangle baking dish. 

Filling the Jumbo Shells

a jumbo shells just filled with a creamy ricotta stuffing before baking

Now it is time to fill those shells with the wonderful ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and pesto filling. You could certainly use a spoon for this step but piping it in makes the process go so quickly and less messy.

Snip the corner of the filled baggies for piping. You will want to add about two tablespoons of the filling to each pasta shell then place the stuff shells into your casserole dish.

I find that the amount of filling is the perfect amount to fill 32 to 34 jumbo shells.

Simple Stuffed Shells Recipe with Ricotta Cheese

baking dish with stuffed shells

This step is optional, but once all of your stuffed shells are arranged in your baking dish, I like the added flavor of sprinkling a bit of Italian seasoning over the shells.

The Sauce

topping ricotta stuffed shells with marinara

Next, pour the remaining marinara sauce over the stuffed shells. Use a spoon or spatula if needed to carefully ensure that all of the pasta is covered with some of the tomato sauce.

Here Comes the Cheese

grated parmesan Reggiano layer over stuffed shells

The next layer is the rest of that freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

stuffed shells topped with grated mozzarella cheese

The final step is to add the remaining cup mozzarella cheese sprinkled over top before placing the stuffed shells into your hot oven to bake until the cheese is all melty and ooey gooey.

Into the Oven to Bake

Casserole dish filled with stuffed shells with a creamy ricotta filling, no meat, topped with marinara and cheeses baked until hot and bubbly

Once my baking time is up, I like to take two extra minutes and switch on the broiler to brown the cheese a little. Y’all, does that look good or what?

Now that is a delicious meal that I’m proud to serve at my dinner table for family and guests. It is a great recipe and I recommend you go ahead and file it under your go favorite pasta recipes.

What to serve with Stuffed Shells?

simple stuffed shells with ricotta cheese filling serve with bread and salad

Y’all can add a touch of Southern charm to your meal with these delicious serving suggestions to enjoy with your stuffed shells supper.

  1. A garden salad – simple and lightly dressed in a vinaigrette.
  2. Fluffy Yeast Rolls
  3. Garlic Bread with a small plate of olive oil infused with herbs and spices for dipping.
  4. Sautéed Green Beans
  5. Fruit Salad

And don’t forget something to sip on, maybe a glass of strawberry iced tea to wet your whistle.

Stuffed Shells Printable Recipe Card

casserole pasta meal of stuffed jumbo shells filled with a creamy cheesy filling, topped with Rao's marinara and grated cheeses. Easy recipe with step by step instructions

Below you will find the printable recipe card for this simple stuffed shells recipe with ricotta cheese. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Yield: 1 Casserole

Easy Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe with Ricotta Cheese Filling

casserole dish with stuffed shells and a blue and white plate with stuffed shells with ricotta cheese filling with a simple salad and piece of Italian bread.

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a ricotta cheese filling that includes a bit of basil pesto, mozzarella, and Parmesan Reggiano with the right amount of seasonings. The stuffed shells are placed into a casserole resting on a layer of marinara then covered with more marinara and shredded cheeses before baking until hot and bubbly. So delicious for the perfect simple pasta dinner that family or guests are sure to love. See full recipe posts for freezing tips and reheating, as well as recipe options, and serving suggestions.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 12 ounce Jumbo Pasta Shells
  • 24 ounce Rao's Marinara (or brand of choice or homemade tomato sauce)
  • 32 ounce Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Prepared Basil Pesto (I love Kirkland's) or use fresh basil thinly sliced.
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt, or to taste
  • ¼ Cracked Black Pepper, or to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon Italian Seasoning, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare the jumbo shells according to package instructions (see post for tips). Do not overcook.
  3. While the pasta cooks, prepare the cheesy filling. In a medium mixing bowl; add the ricotta cheese, eggs, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ½ cup of the grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese, basil pesto, salt and pepper. Use a spatula to stir and combine the filling mixture together.
  4. Next, transfer the cheese mixture into two gallon sized Ziplock bags, or piping bag, snip the corners and set aside. The smaller size makes handling the filling mixture for piping easier.
  5. The next step is to add ⅓ of the jar of marinara (about a cup) to the bottom of a rectangle casserole dish.
  6. Drain the jumbo shells into a colander, place the colander over a bowl and allow the shells to cool enough to handle.
  7. Pipe the cheesy ricotta mixture into each shell, about two tablespoons per shell. This amount of filling will fill 32 to 34 shells perfectly. Place each shell as it is filled into the baking dish. Repeat until all are filled.
  8. Optional: sprinkle a little Italian seasoning over the shells.
  9. Next, pour the remaining marinara over the shells. If needed, gently use a spoon or spatula to spread the marinara ensuring it is covering all of the pasta.
  10. Finally, add a layer of the remaining grated Parmesan cheese topped with the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese then place into the hot oven to bake for 45 minutes.
  11. Serve hot with your favorite sides for pasta meals.


See full post for other recipe ingredient variations.

See full post for tips for freezing stuffed shells and how to reheat. The cheese filling mixture is also freezable.

See full post for serving suggestions that you might enjoy with stuffed shells.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

4 stuffed shells

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 409Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 1014mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 27g

serving size can vary based on appetite

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Easy Simple Classic Stuffed Shells Recipe with Ricotta

Well, y’all, there you have it—a dish that’s as comforting as a hug from Mama! This simple stuffed shells recipe with ricotta cheese filling are just the ticket for any occasion that calls for a little extra love on the plate.

Serve them up with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and watch as they disappear faster than you can say “more, please!”

I hope you enjoy making and eating this dish as much as I do.

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Happy cooking, y’all!

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Author of Julia's Simply Southern

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