Cheese Stuffed Shells

5 from 21 votes

These Cheese Stuffed Shells are made with ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese; and baked in a marinara sauce. It's an easy weekday family friendly meal!

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This Cheese Stuffed Shells recipe post is sponsored by Emmi Cheese. I received compensation, but all opinions and content are my own.

Cheese…good. Pasta…good. Marinara sauce…good. Put it all together to make these cheese stuffed shells, and your lasagna recipe just got its latest rival! These jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with three types of cheese, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, baked with a marinara sauce until beautifully bubbly and served with fresh basil. They’re an easy vegetarian dinner to throw together that is definitely a family favorite!

Cheese stuffed shells in a white oval baking dish topped with fresh basil

What type of cheese is best for cheese stuffed shells

Traditionally, this recipe is made with three types of cheese:

  1. Ricotta cheese is the main cheese that gives the recipe a creamy texture
  2. Shredded mozzarella is an easy melting cheese with a mild delicate flavor, perfect for Italian dishes
  3. Parmesan cheese gives it a more bold and nutty flavor to balance the mozzarella

Today I’m swapping the parmesan cheese for Kaltbach Le Cremeux cheese. I know what you’re thinking? Kalt-what?? It’s basically a cave-aged alpine-style cheese imported from Switzerland. And here’s why it totally works in this recipe if you can get your hands on it! Each Kaltbach cheese is carefully aged in the deep, cool Kaltbach Cave.

Ideally, while you’re cooking the pasta shells, you’ll mix the ingredients for the cheese stuffing. That includes ricotta, mozzarella cheese, Kaltbach Le Cremeux cheese, an egg, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

What does that all mean? Well, it means that it has a distinctive flavor that adds body and interest to these cheese stuffed shells. In fact, the cave-aging creates these complex flavors that are a balance of earthy, nuttiness and woodiness. I’m telling you…so unique!

Grating Kaltbach cheese for the recipe

How to make ricotta cheese stuffed shells

Cook the shells

Start by cooking the pasta shells a little shy of al dente. For me that was about 8 minutes. Then, immediately drain the pasta, rinse with cold water and place the pasta in an oven-safe baking dish filled with half the marinara sauce. Placing the shells right into the sauce helps them from sticking together while you stuff them. This is the shells before cooking.

Jumbo pasta shells before cooking

Mix the cheese stuffing

Ideally, while you’re cooking the pasta shells, you’ll mix the ingredients for the cheese stuffing. That includes ricotta, mozzarella cheese,  Kaltbach™ cheese, an egg, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

The cheese mixture with ricotta, mozzarella, kaltbach, egg and spices before and after mixing

Put it all together

Now you’re ready to stuff the cooked shells with the cheese mixture.

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with the cheese mixture in a baking dish filled with marinara sauce

After you finish stuffing the 12 shells, add dollops of the remaining sauce on top, add some extra cheese and bake it in the preheated oven.

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with the cheese mixture in a baking dish filled with marinara sauce and then topped with more sauce and cheese

You’ll know these cheese stuffed shells are ready because the cheese will all be melted, the marinara sauce will be bubbling and the shells will be slightly set. Finish it off with some fresh basil and get ready to devour! Pictured below is about half the recipe.

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with cheese mixture after baking in oven

Tips for making ricotta cheese stuffed shells

  1. Do not overcook the pasta. In fact, while many instructions for cheese stuffed shells will suggest cooking the pasta al dente, I recommend 2 minutes shy of al dente. That’s because these shells will be baking in the oven with the sauce and cheese for more than half an hour.
  2. Rinse the shells with cold water after boiling. This prevents them from sticking to each other while you’re preparing the cheese mixture and stuffing the pasta shells. Just be sure to let drain very well so you’re not adding excess moisture in the dish.
  3. Add a layer of sauce to the pan before adding the shells. This helps to keep the shells moist so they are not sticking together while you are stuffing them. It’s also easier to serve them this way. I find that there’s no need to spray the baking dish or spray the pasta shells with oil. The marinara sauce does the trick!
  4. Use a large ziplock bag to pipe the cheese stuffing into the shells. This is a fun little trick to make the assembly of the cheese stuffed pasta faster. After mixing the filling, place it in a large enough bag, cut off a corner and pipe into the shells. This trick saves time, creates less mess, and results in an overall better presentation.
Close up shot of the cheese stuffed shells topped with basil

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make cheese stuffed shells in advance?

Yes. You can make these stuffed shells 1-2 days ahead of time. Boil the pasta, stuff the shells and place in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake, pour the sauce over the pasta and then bake. If you pour the sauce a couple days in advance, it will affect the texture of the pasta.

Can you freeze the the stuffed shells?

Yes. You can freeze them before baking and without the sauce. Just place them in a freezer safe baking dish or disposable foil pan. You can also transfer them from the baking dish once frozen into a freezer bag. I recommend doing this if you want some flexibility in how many shells you cook for the second meal.

When you’re ready to bake, just remove from the freezer, pour the sauce, add any extra cheese and bake while the shells are frozen. Just add 5-10 extra minutes of baking time.

Cheese stuffed shells topped with basil with the Kaltbach cheese showing on the side

These cheese stuffed shells recipe are similar in taste and texture to lasagna, but with extra extra cheese that’s stuffed in the cutest jumbo pasta shells. You can play around with the types of cheese you use and try something new and bold like the Kaltbach™ cheese I used. All in all, it’s a deliciously cheesy comfort dish that is sure to be a hit with your family and friends!

Thank you Emmi Cheese for sponsoring this post.

More pasta recipes:

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Cheese Stuffed Shells recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Cheese Stuffed Shells

These Cheese Stuffed Shells are made with ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese; and baked in a marinara sauce. It's an easy weekday family friendly meal!
5 from 21 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Dinner
Calories 404
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 35 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 8 ounce package jumbo pasta shells
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese divided
  • ½ cup grated Kaltbach Le Cremeux cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 – 28 ounce jar marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F degrees.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or a little less than al dente; drain and rinse with cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Kaltbach cheese, half the mozzarella cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Spread ¾ of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Spoon the cheese mixture into the cooked shells and place in the baking dish. Pour remaining spaghetti sauce over shells and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in preheated oven covered (preferably but not necessary) for 30-35 minutes, until edges are bubbly and shells are slightly set.

Video

Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Freezing Instructions:  You can freeze the shells before baking without the sauce. Just place them in a freezer safe baking dish or disposable foil pan. You can also freeze them on a baking dish, and once frozen, store them in a freezer bag so you select the quantity to bake.
 
When you’re ready to bake, just remove from the freezer, pour the sauce, add any extra cheese on top and bake with the frozen shells, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Make Ahead Tips: You can make these stuffed shells 1-2 days ahead of time. Boil the pasta, stuff the shells and place in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake, pour the sauce over the pasta and then bake. If you pour the sauce a couple days in advance, it will affect the texture of the pasta.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • To make this lower in fat, you can substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta
  • Feel free to use other types of cheeses you like instead of the suggested ones, but the combination is amazing together.
Nutrition: Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. It will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.  This information should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. The nutrition value is for one serving, which is equivalent to two jumbo shells

Nutrition

Calories: 404kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 86mg, Sodium: 1214mg, Potassium: 634mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1140IU, Vitamin C: 9.2mg, Calcium: 384mg, Iron: 2.5mg

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Cheese stuffed shells in a white oval baking dish topped with fresh basil

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Comments

  1. I always hate Prep Times bc while I am not a professional chef, I’m also not an amateur, and it takes almost 20 minutes to boil the water and cook the shells. I don’t know how people do it in that time frame. With that said, my family enjoyed the meal. I did add ground beef (1 lb), but it would be just as good without. Also, does the ingredient list say to separate the parm when really it should be the mozz….or vice versa?

    1. Oh I gotcha with the prep time, but usually it refers to hands-on prep time, that’s how most people count it. And thank you for pointing that out about the dividing the mozzarella cheese, not the parmesan. The mozzarella is more melty, so that’s what we want on top. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  2. I made these tonight and folded an 8 oz container of real crab meat into the cheese mixture. I guess I turned the recipe into sea shells. My husband and I agreed that they turned out as good as a high end Italian restaurant would have produced. My grocer only had one choice of pasta shells and I don’t know if they are smaller than pictured in the recipe, but 8 oz of raw pasta equaled waaay more shells.. about 26 for me. The filling was still enough for all of them. I just had to use a few more baking dishes.

    1. So glad you tried it and I love that you added crab meat. My photo actually shows half the recipe, so 8 ounces is about 26-30 jumbo shells. I added that note to the recipe so thanks for bringing that up!

  3. Made this delicious dish tonight for the family. Was a hit with all which doesn’t happen often!
    Easy prep and we even had left overs that we are looking forward to having for lunch. Definitely a five star ?

    1. Aww thank you so much for the feedback. So happy to hear the whole family loved it!! thank you 🙂

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