Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Simple and delicious, jumbo pasta shells are filled to brimming with ricotta cheese and baked to glorious, cheesy perfection.
With your homemade ricotta in hand just waiting to be used (assuming you didn’t end up eating it all with a spoon), the only clear choice is to immediately stuff it into a cheesy, delicious pasta dish. Amiright?
Cheesy stuffed pasta shells are one of our family’s big fat favorites. This dish could probably serve more like eight moderate eaters but there are no boundaries when pasta shells appear at the table.
We easily clean up the whole pan. Granted, there are seven of us, but still, my 11-year old devoured six of these all on his own last week. Six. Jumbo pasta shells. Filled to brimming with pillowy clouds of creamy ricotta.
Sure, I can’t really blame him (I mean, these shells are goooood), but all I could think about as I sat there was if I’ll still have my sanity (or savings account) in six years when I’m tripling recipes like this on an average Tuesday night just to feed four hollow-legged teenage boys. Hold me.
Easy as can be, this dish is perfect for company, a take-in meal, or doable for a weeknight (especially with the make-ahead instructions I included in the notes of the recipe).
That soft, creamy, and ultra-cheesy ricotta filling is out of this world, and the stovetop marinara sauce isn’t half-bad either. Actually, they’re quite perfect together. Lots of pasta, lots of sauce and lots of cheese.
As you can see, there’s a lot to crush on here.
What To Serve With This:
Amazing Romaine Salad or everyday thrown-together green salad
Skillet Green Beans
One Year Ago: Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownie Bites
Two Years Ago: Thai Chicken Crunch Wraps
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Frosted Brownies
Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 cups homemade or store-bought ricotta cheese (see note)
- 1 large egg
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup (57 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup (114 g) shredded mozzarella cheese
Shells and Basil:
- 20 jumbo pasta shells
- Fresh basil for topping, optional
- For the sauce, in a 4-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried basil, dried oregano, bay leaf and brown sugar. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Puree with an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a blender. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta shells in lightly salted boiling water for 9-10 minutes (make good use of time and do this while the sauce simmers). Drain and separate into a single layer on parchment paper (or other nonstick surface).
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and parsley, Whisk (or beat with an electric mixer) until well-combined and the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish.
- Spread half of the pasta sauce in the prepared dish. Fill each shell with a couple tablespoons of the cheesy mixture (I use my #40 medium cookie scoop for super easy scooping and filling) until all the shells are filled evenly.
- Place the filled shells side-by-side in the pan. Cover with the remaining sauce.
- Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until the edges are bubbling and the filling is hot. Sprinkle with fresh basil torn into pieces, if desired. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (sauce adapted from this favorite marinara recipe)
39 Comments on “Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells”
Everyone in my family liked this dinner (2 adults, 4 kids)! Mel’s homemade ricotta recipe made it so good!
Do you know what you can’t find in the middle of a pandemic? Pasta shells. I’ve made this dish twice in the past two weeks and had to substitute bowtie and lasagna noodles. I should have just made something else, but the ingredients were in my shopping cart and I didn’t want to change plans, or rather I didn’t want to change plans completely. So this will be one of my pandemic memories. No. Pasta. Shells.
This recipe is one of my favorites!! My whole family loves it so much!!
Can I store the filling for 2-3 days in advance in the refrigerator ?
I’m sorry, let me explain…I have to cook 3 main courses for a party this Saturday so I am trying to prepare as much in advance as possible! I’d like to make the ricotta mixture a day or so ahead of time and store in a baggie in the refrigerator, so I can just fill the shells the day of the party 🙂 Do you think that would be okay? Also, THANK YOU so much for this awesome recipe…I cannot wait to try it!,!
Yes, that should work just fine!
Made this for a family birthday dinner and everyone loved it! Was the first time I made stuffed shells and I will use this as my go to recipe now. (I didn’t have time to make the sauce, so I did have to use store bought) I made them the night before our dinner, so I put a good amount of sauce on top of the shells to be sure they stayed moist while baking. I doubled the recipe for our group and it worked out great!!
I tried your stuffed shells receipe. I love Italian food and this was my first time making this recipe. I love your receipe, it’s easy and simple but out of the oven it’s great. I love cooking, and I had made homemade meat sauce and froze what was left after dinner and I wanted to make something else with the sauce so I used your stuffed shell receipe and it was great. Thanks for putting your receipe on Pinterest.
Sincerely, Metta Larsen-cutler
Delicious! I don’t usually make my own sauce, but this one was worth it!
Mel, I’m trying hard to trust, but I made the homemade ricotta, and followed all of the instructions exactly. I’m making the ricotta cheese mix in this step and it seems super runny. Like milk…. I’m pretty sure that’s not right, but I don’t know what to do! I got a lot of whey in the homemade, so it seems like it strained, but I don’t know if it was as curd-ly as it should be?!?! Maybe we’ll have ricotta noodle soup, since I’m sure it will taste good!
Did it end up working out, Ashlee?
With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright
violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping
it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d genuinely appreciate it.
If I half this woulday I still do the same cooking time given a smaller pan size? Weird question I know. Thank you for the recipe!
I think so…maybe start checking 5 minutes earlier, but the same cooking time will probably be fine. 🙂
Sorry! I just reread the instructions and you already answered how to bake it frozen!
Would this work to freeze?
Thank you! I used your homemade ricotta recipe and the only change I made was using 2 tsp dry parsley, since I didn’t have any fresh. I made the sauce and everything. It was wonderful! And it males quite a bit, so I will get to enjoy the leftovers all weekend! You are the best!
Males should be makes… silly auto correct!
If I don’t have fresh parsley, how much dry should I use to sub? Thanks for your recipes! They are always a hit with my family.
Probably a couple teaspoons.
My kids do not eat casserole stuff. They do not eat red sauce or melted cheese, but they sure ate the heck out of these stuffed shells last night! Homemade ricotta for the win!
We made this for a Relief Society dinner and everyone loved. I knew we could count on your excellent recipe. Thank you!!
Mel, I love this recipe and no shortcuts for me. All in one methods are the best xoxo
Hi Mel! Just wanted to thank you profusely for the rockstar recipes you provide my family’s bellies! You have helped broaden my culinary horizons quite nicely. I appreciate you and your awesome attitude and zest for life and food!!! Thank you for sharing your awesome self and recipes!
Thank you, Laura!
@Danielle. Do you blend the ricotta with the other seasonings/basil — or just the basil, etc. and then add it to the ricotta?
I throw everything in a blender. The ricotta, basil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and blend it all together. Mmmmmm 🙂
I had a vegetarian friend over for dinner and made this. Absolutely delicious! We all loved it. I didn’t have time to make the homemade ricotta (on my list for next time!), but I was able to get my hands on some really good whole milk store-bought ricotta. Good ricotta makes all the difference for sure. But one of my favorite things about this dish was the sauce. Such good flavor and texture! I think the pureed veggies in the sauce make all the difference.
Mel~ as always your recipes amaze me! I made these wonderful shells this weekend along with the home made ricotta cheese. Let me just say it took every bit of restraint to not eat the ricotta straight from the bowl prior to making the shells. I ended up doubling the sauce recipe, I did not use it all but did need about a 1/4 of the 2nd batch and then put the rest in the freezer. This recipe will now be at the top of my list for giving away as it was easy and very yummy! Thank you for all your hard work!!!
Hi friend! How would you compare these to your manicotti recipe that calls for lasagna noodles? We LOOOOVe that one!
Ooh, yes, that’s a good one, too. These are pretty close although I think the ricotta filling in this recipe is much more pillowy and creamy, if that makes sense.
I like your ceramic lasagna pan. Would you mind telling me the brand?
LOVE your blog! Your recipes are the best.
I got it at Cost Plus World Market (I think it’s their store brand).
They look AMAZING! Thanks for posting! Do you think it would work well with any other kind of cheese though?
Do you mean subbing out the ricotta cheese or the mozzarella?
I made lasagne with your homemade ricotta yesterday and it totally made me feel like a rock star; I loved it!!! What I usually do with lasagne, that I think makes a huge difference, is I mix the ricotta with a lot of basil (fresh is best) a little salt, pepper, a touch of oregano and two cloves of garlic into the blender and blend that up. Seasoning the ricotta in this way has always helped my lasagne have an extra special flavor. You should try it sometime. Now that I will be making fresh ricotta it will be that much better :)!!!! Thanks for all you do on this blog. I am a food blog junkie and yours is my favorite!!!
Looks really yummy and healthy <3