Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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.

Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells

What To ServeAmazing Romaine Salad or everyday thrown-together green salad
Divine Breadsticks
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

Yield: Serves 6-8

Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells

If you are in a hurry or homemade sauce isn't your jam, this recipe calls for about 4 1/2 - 5 cups marinara sauce if you want to substitute your favorite store-bought brand.

If you are using storebought ricotta cheese (especially part-skim), consider adding a tablespoon or two of milk to the filling to help achieve a creamier texture. Also, in case you are wondering, 20 jumbo pasta shells is right about half of a 20 ounce box.

To make this dish ahead of time, prepare up until baking. Cover with lightly greased foil and refrigerate for up to two days. Bake covered for 40 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. The dish can also be frozen prior to baking. Bake from frozen at 350 degrees F, covered with greased aluminum foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30-45 minutes longer until the edges are bubbling and the shells are hot throughout.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Ricotta Filling:
  • 2 cups homemade ricotta or store-bought ricotta cheese (see note above)
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • Shells and Basil:
  • 20 jumbo pasta shells
  • Fresh basil for topping (optional)


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish.
  6. 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.
  7. Place the filled shells side-by-side in the pan. Cover with the remaining sauce.
  8. 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)

26 Responses to Cheesy Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  1. Kimberly says:

    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!

  2. Laura says:

    Sorry! I just reread the instructions and you already answered how to bake it frozen!

  3. Laura says:

    Would this work to freeze?

  4. Rachael says:

    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!

  5. Rachael K says:

    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.

  6. Jess M says:

    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!

  7. Sue says:

    We made this for a Relief Society dinner and everyone loved. I knew we could count on your excellent recipe. Thank you!!

  8. Beverley says:

    Mel, I love this recipe and no shortcuts for me. All in one methods are the best xoxo

  9. Laura says:

    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!

  10. Asparagus says:

    @Danielle. Do you blend the ricotta with the other seasonings/basil — or just the basil, etc. and then add it to the ricotta?

    • Danielle says:

      I throw everything in a blender. The ricotta, basil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and blend it all together. Mmmmmm 🙂

  11. Margo says:

    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.

  12. Jessica G. says:

    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!!!

  13. Allie says:

    Hi friend! How would you compare these to your manicotti recipe that calls for lasagna noodles? We LOOOOVe that one!

    • Mel says:

      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.

  14. Daphne says:

    I like your ceramic lasagna pan. Would you mind telling me the brand?

    LOVE your blog! Your recipes are the best.

  15. Sally says:

    They look AMAZING! Thanks for posting! Do you think it would work well with any other kind of cheese though?

  16. Danielle says:

    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!!!

  17. Eli says:

    Looks really yummy and healthy <3

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