Cheesy Stuffed Shells are a mouthwatering dinner that both vegetarians and omnivores will love.
Large al dente pasta shells are stuffed with a creamy spinach and cheese mixture. Layer the shells in a baking dish with marinara, top with more cheese, and bake the dish until bubbly.
This comforting Italian dinner is super simple to make, with only six ingredients + seasonings. It’s perfect for an easy weeknight meal or a date night. Plus, the leftovers reheat wonderfully.
And honestly, you just can’t go wrong with a dish of gooey, melty cheese.
Why KJ Loves
Cheesy Stuffed Shells
A cheesy comfort food dish that is so fun to make and eat! Trust me, stuffed shells are much easier to put together than you may think – and the end result is so delicious! Can be a comforting weeknight meal or a fancy date night dinner. My kind of recipe!
What are cheesy stuffed shells?
Introducing manicotti’s more dynamic sibling.
Cheesy stuffed shells are jumbo pasta shells that are filled with a ricotta/spinach mixture, nestled in a tangy marinara, and covered with mozzarella cheese.
The shells hold in the filling better than manicotti (no filling squishing out the other end!). They also have a delicious, chewy texture.
Cheesy Stuffed Shells Ingredients
The best way to get cheese into your mouth. You’ll want to cook these for 1-2 minutes less because the pasta will cook a little in the oven.
Ricotta forms the creamy base of the cheese filling.
I love that this cheese adds a decadent, nutty flavor that makes these stuffed shells stand out. You can buy shredded asiago cheese or buy a block of the cheese and shred it yourself.
Frozen spinach is the easiest to use for this ricotta cheese mixture. Make sure to defrost it and squeeze all the extra liquid out before you add it to the filling.
Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder are simple yet delicious.
Use your favorite marinara sauce for this recipe. Here’s my go-to!
Top this pasta dish off with some shredded mozzarella cheese before baking it, to make this dinner all sorts of melty and gooey.
How to Make Cheesy Stuffed Shells
Preheat the oven.
Cook the jumbo shells to al dente according to package instructions. Make sure not to let the pasta get too soft or mushy. We need these shells to be firm — so they can hold all the deliciously cheesy filling! Drain and cool the pasta.
Prepare the ricotta cheese filling in a small bowl by combining the ricotta cheese, shredded asiago, spinach, and seasonings. Pour the marinara into the bottom of a baking dish.
Gently stuff the cooked shells with the filling and place them in the dish cheese side up. Continue until all the shells are stuffed.
Spread the mozzarella cheese over the top and bake until bubbly and slightly golden brown.
To get the cheese filling into the shells quickly, try using a large Ziplock bag.
Simply fill the bag with the cheese filling, cut a small corner off, and carefully pipe the cheese into the shells.
Cheesy Pasta Shells Variations
Substitute parmesan for asiago. You’ll still end up with a nice, nutty flavor that complements the ricotta.
Add more protein like ground beef, Italian sausage, or shredded chicken. Just make sure to cook the meat first.
Pile on the veggies: sauteed mushrooms, cooked bell peppers…whatever you like best!
Cheesy Stuffed Shells FAQs:
Can I use fresh spinach?
You can use fresh spinach, but it will be easier if you use frozen spinach. If you’re using fresh spinach, chop it up so it combines better with the ricotta mixture.
How long should I cook the pasta?
You’ll want to cook your pasta until it’s al dente — slightly firm to the bite. No mushy pasta here! If in doubt, stop cooking a little earlier. The pasta will cook a little more in the oven.
What if my ricotta is watery?
If you have watery ricotta, use a cheesecloth to strain it before mixing the ricotta with the other cheese filling ingredients.
Can you freeze cheesy stuffed shells?
Prepare the stuffed shells all the way up until right before they go in the oven. Store in the freezer for up to several months. When it’s time to cook the stuffed shells, bake them directly from frozen. You’ll need to add a little extra time in the oven.
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