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Cheese-Stuffed Jumbo Pasta Shells

Two stuffed pasta shells on a white plate.

This is a birthday standby for the girls at our house!

When I was growing up, my mom used to make cheese-stuffed manicotti shells, but sometime during my teen years, we discovered that jumbo shells taste pretty much the same but are infinitely easier to fill.

My recipe isn’t unique at all…it’s the one off the back of the box. But just in case some of you out there have only ever eaten the pre-filled, frozen shells, I thought it might be fun to show you that the DIY version isn’t that hard.

And it is a lot less expensive.

As you might imagine, given that you can buy a frozen version, you can freeze your home-stuffed shells. So even if you’ve got a small household, make a whole batch and freeze a pan for a quick meal you can pull out on a busy day.

These are the shells I buy.

A box of jumbo pasta shells.

I cook them according to the package directions and then gently dump them out into a colander to cool.

While the shells are cooking, I mix up the cheese filling, which is very not-complicated. Just dump everything together in a large bowl and stir it together.

Ricotta pasta filling ingredients in a bowl.

Once the pasta shells are cool enough to handle, hold a shell open with one hand and scoop some cheese filling into it with a spoon. This takes a bit of practice, but once you get it down, you can fill the shells pretty quickly.

And if you’ve got some offspring, you can always round them up to help you.

A pasta shell being filled with cheese.

Pour a thin layer of jarred pasta sauce into a pan, and place the cheese-filled shells on top. The original recipe says you can fit all of the shells into a single pan, but I usually need to put some in an 8×8 pan.

A full pan of stuffed pasta shells.
Pour the remaining pasta sauce over top of the shells.

A pan of pasta shells, topepd with tomato sauce.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 ° F oven for 35 minutes, or until they’re hot and bubbly.

Two stuffed pasta shells on a white plate.

If you like sausage with your pasta shells, just cook some up and sprinkle it over top of the shells before you bake them. Some of us like the sausage and some of us don’t, so I usually put sausage on half of the shells.

Really, you could vary these a lot…you could add spinach or fresh basil to the filling, add mushrooms along with the sausage, or use Romano instead of Parmesan in the filling.

But since we mostly have these on birthdays, which are not the time for experimentation, we usually just stick to the delicious original recipe.

Cheese-Stuffed Jumbo Pasta Shells

1 package (12 oz.) jumbo pasta shells, uncooked
4 cups (2 lb.) ricotta cheese
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups (about 26-oz. jar) spaghetti sauce

Cook shells according to package directions; drain, and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, eggs, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. Using a spoon, fill cooled shells with cheese mixture; place in pan. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 ° F oven for 35 minutes.

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Sunday 18th of May 2014

Can I bake the stuffed cheese shells (which are already frozen in the bag) and then after they've cooled - put them in the frig over night and bring them to work for someone? These would be put in the frig at work and they would bring them home and reheat in the oven for dinner. I just want to make sure they would not be mushy, soggy or whatever - and would still taste fresh. I am also making them my sauce and meatballs to go with the shells.


Sunday 18th of May 2014

Could you give them to your friend unbaked? They'd be at their best that way!


Wednesday 10th of October 2012

So, do you freeze them before you bake them or after? Thanks!


Wednesday 10th of October 2012

Definitely before you bake them!


Wednesday 18th of July 2012

Thanks FG for sharing this recipe. It's one of those that is so easy, but I never would have thought to make it. I go more complicated and make lasagna instead. I love the idea of freezing them. PS, my favorite store-bought sauce is the Bolognese from Trader Joe's. If you've got one near you, their sauce is great!

Rebecca j

Wednesday 18th of July 2012

I love this trick when doing Lasgana or any kind of stuffed pasta. I don't cook the pasta. I stuff the shells or lay the pasta in the lasgana and add a bit if extra water to the sauce and bake as normal. The pasta soaked up all the goodness and are perfect. Lasgana stacked and pasta cooked perfect. I haven't tried freezing uncocked pasta. Thanks for the post reminded I need to do some stuffed shells!


Sunday 22nd of July 2012

I use the "no boil" lasanga noodles, and make several pans at one time. They freeze up just as well for me as doing it the other way, and I don't have to deal with slippery noodles :)


Wednesday 18th of July 2012

Thanks...I have some ricotta languishing in the fridge and just made a marinara sauce from tomatoes right from the farm and my homegrown basil. I'm going to make a pan to freeze for later.

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