The Cozy Cook

Stuffed Shells

If you’re looking for the BEST Stuffed Shells recipe, you’ve come to the right place! These classic stuffed shells are filled with a creamy 4-cheese blend with the best Italian seasonings, sautéed garlic, and the optional addition of spinach. These shells are perfectly cooked and are make-ahead and freezer friendly!

Be sure to serve this with some Garlic Bread with Cheese!

A skillet filled with cheesy Stuffed Shells with mozzarella cheese and parsley on top.

Stuffed Shells

You are absolutely going to love the 4-cheese filling in these stuffed shells, and the spinach, garlic, and Italian seasoning blend add just the right touch.  I love that you can make this meal ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it until you’re ready to bake it!

Let’s go through how to make it, and be sure to check out my PRO tips for this recipe below!

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Boil the shells in salted water for 1 minute less than al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop them from cooking further.

While the shells boil, sauté garlic and spinach in olive oil until softened and wilted. Let cool.

A skillet of sautéed spinach next to a bowl of filling ingredients for stuffed shells.

Combine ricotta, seasonings, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, 1 egg, and cooled spinach/garlic. 

Spread 1/2 of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish.

Stuffed shell filling next to a baking dish with marinara sauce.Fill the shells with the cheese mixture and place in the baking dish. Top with remaining marinara sauce.

Stuffed shells in a skillet before and after marinara sauce is added.

Top with remaining mozzarella/Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

A baking dish of stuffed shells before and after baking.

Pro Tips

  • Boil extra shells in case some break during the boiling or draining process.
  • The spinach is optional but adds a nice touch! Frozen spinach may also be used, be sure to let it thaw and pat it dry.
  • Shred the cheese from a block instead of using packaged shredded cheese. It will melt and taste much  better.
  • Low moisture whole milk mozzarella melts the best in this recipe.
  • I love to use Dragone for the mozzarella, BelGioioso for the Parmesan, and Philadelphia for the cream cheese. 
  • Rao’s is my go-to brand for marinara sauce, (it’s really good)!

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

A white plate with cheesy Stuffed Shells on top with a fork.

Tools For This Recipe

(Amazon affiliate links)- Check out all of my kitchen essentials here.

  • This is the Le Creuset skillet I used in this recipe, (and in 90% of my recipes). It’s pricey, but it conducts heat really well and is oven safe. The size is perfect and the quality is great.
  • Box Cheese Grater– Lets you finely shred the cheese. (Always shred from a block instead of using packaged shredded cheese.)
  • Pasta Strainer– This is the one I use, it’s the perfect size.

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A round baking dish filled with Cheesy Stuffed Shells with sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Stuffed Shells

5 from 5 ratings
These classic stuffed shells are filled with a creamy 4-cheese blend with Italian seasonings, sautéed garlic, and the optional addition of spinach. This meal is also make-ahead and freezer friendly!

Ingredients

  • 18-20 jumbo pasta shells, boil extra in case some break
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 15 oz. Ricotta
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • Fresh parsley, to garnish

Seasonings

  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Boil shells in salted water for 1 minute less than al dente, set a timer to avoid overcooking them. Drain once cooked and gently rinse with cold water until the water on the bottom comes out cool. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. (Optional: Slice the spinach into strips before cooking it if smaller pieces are preferred.)
    Add the spinach and toss to coat. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Set aside and let cool.
  • Place the ricotta in a large bowl and add the seasonings. Use a silicone spatula to stir to combine. Add half of the mozzarella cheese and most of the Parmesan, but reserve a little Parmesan to sprinkle over the top before baking. Add the cream cheese and the egg and stir to combine. Fold in the cooled spinach and garlic.
  • Add half of the marinara sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish (or a round 12-inch oven-safe skillet) Use a spoon to fill each pasta shell with the cheese mixture and place it in the baking dish.
  • Add the remaining marinara sauce, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan.
  • Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with Garlic Bread with Cheese!

Notes

Pro Tips:
  • Boil extra shells in case some break during the boiling or draining process.
  • The spinach is optional but adds a nice touch! Frozen spinach may also be used, be sure to let it thaw and pat it dry. 
  • Shred the cheese from a block instead of using packaged shredded cheese. It will melt and taste much  better.
  • Low moisture whole milk mozzarella melts the best in this recipe.
  • I love to use Dragone for the mozzarella, BelGioioso for the Parmesan, and Philadelphia for the cream cheese. 
  • Rao's is my go-to brand for marinara sauce, (it's really good)!
  • This recipe makes about 18 shells and has 6 servings. Nutritional facts are based on 3 shells per person.

Make Ahead Method:
  • Assemble and refrigerate up to 1 day ahead of time. Add 10 minutes to covered baking time.
  • Assemble and freeze, bake from frozen and add 35 minutes to covered baking time. Or, let thaw in the fridge and add 10 minutes to covered baking time.

Storage
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 496kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 119mg, Sodium: 1376mg, Potassium: 694mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 3234IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 584mg, Iron: 3mg

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10 comments on “Stuffed Shells”

  1. This was amazing! I only had Herb and Garlic Cream Cheese, but it was still so good! Definitely something you should make for your family if they love cheese and pasta.

  2. I love the shells. I put a piece of parchment paper over the shells and then foil before I baked them so that the cheese wouldn’t melt into the foil

    Carlene

  3. I made this but made it for only 2 and I added 1/2 pound hamburger to it. OMG – it was so good. Thanks so much for posting. And, yes I served cheesy garlic bread with it – Yum!!!

  4. I made these Stuff Shells tonight for my family. Usually I don’t give reviews but this recipe was a hit for my whole family. I followed the recipe to a ‘T’. I even bought the Rao’s as you recommended for the sauce. I was not disappointed. It tasted like a restaurant quality meal. I find the tips you give so helpful because I can almost always find the answers to my questions in your tips. I think my husband is changing his mind about my cooking ability. HAHAHA…not looking too bad now am I? Thanks again! Will be making this regularly!!!

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed this Sophia! I love that your husband is taking you seriously as a cook… nice work!😍 Thanks so much for the great comments and review!

  5. This was loved by the whole family Steph! I ended up just putting a little spinach in since I didn’t want to scare away the kiddos lol. They ended up cleaning their plates. Another winner, thanks so much!

    • I’m so happy the whole family enjoyed this Terri! I totally understand about the spinach. Gotta love the little picky eaters. Thanks so much for the great review!❤️

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