These stuffed shells are filled with creamy ricotta, Parmesan, and a delicious mix of sauteed vegetables. Like our Cheesy Baked Ziti and popular Veggie Noodles, these stuffed shells are great for kids and adults alike and are easy to make for a crowd. Go for the vegetable stuffed shells or read on for our tips to make them happen.
Other stuffed shell recipes: Readers love our Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells or try something different and make Buffalo Stuffed Chicken Shells.
Stuffed shells are such a classic recipe! This version features perfectly cooked pasta shells stuffed with a creamy blend of two cheeses, mushrooms, spinach, and bell peppers. The shells are placed on top of a bed of marinara sauce and then baked until the cheese begins to boil. Let me tell you how easy the recipe is to make!
How to make stuffed shells
The first step in preparing stuffed shells is to cook the shells. Look for large shells (sometimes sold as “jumbo”) and cook them in salted water. The package they came in will indicate how long to cook them (about 10 minutes). We like to reduce the cooking time from one minute to two, which leaves the shells undercooked. It’s fine, though. Once filled with our cheese and vegetable filling and removed from the oven, they will be perfect.
While the shells are cooking, you can omit the vegetables. Simply cook the sliced mushrooms in a large skillet (an oven-safe skillet is best). When the mushrooms start to brown, add the peppers and cook some more until they start to soften. Last but not least, add lots of spinach. As soon as the spinach is wilted in the pan, the vegetables are ready.
To make the cheesy vegetable mix, mix the ricotta with the cooked vegetables, fresh basil, a little salt, pepper, oregano, and a generous handful of Parmesan. Taste the mixture before stuffing cooked shells – I usually find that it needs an extra pinch of salt.
If you’ve used a large oven-safe skillet to cook the vegetables, you can use that to cook the skins (cheers for fewer dishes!). If you don’t have a pan like this, that’s fine, use a baking sheet instead. Add the marinara sauce to the bottom of the skillet or roasting pan. Fill the pasta shells with a tablespoon of the cheese mixture, then drop them into the sauce.
Sprinkle some melted cheese over the shells – I like mozzarella or fontina. Then bake, uncovered, until the marinara sauce boils around the shells and the cheese has melted on top.
You may also like these recipes: If you have leftover mushrooms, here is our easy baked mushroom recipe or leftover spinach, try our Sauteed Spinach with Lemon (it’s a very quick and easy side dish).
Prepare the stuffed shells in advance.
The shells can be stuffed and placed in the saucepan or skillet and stored in the refrigerator (covered) for up to a day. You can also freeze them. Wrap them tightly in a layer (or two) of aluminum foil and freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake. Or cook from frozen, but expect them to take a little longer to heat through.
Other meals in advance: This vegetable lasagna and our weekly spaghetti sauce are also perfect for early morning meals!
More tips for the best stuffed shells
- As mentioned above, it’s best to cook the pasta shells for a minute or two before stuffing and baking. The shells will continue to bake in the oven, so cooking them a bit at first will prevent them from overcooking later.
- Use high quality, flavorful cheeses – I like whole milk ricotta, but ricotta is also an option.
- Generously season the filling. Before stuffing her shells, she tastes the cheese filling. If it’s tasteless, add a pinch of salt and possibly a little more Parmesan cheese.
- Use your favorite store-bought marinara or make it yourself with our homemade marinara sauce.
- Cook some more shells. I always find a shell ripped off after boiling, so I like to throw a couple more in the water. I usually end up eating the extra or broken shells with the leftover cheese filling or marinara sauce on my own.
Vegetable stuffed shells with cheese
- PREPARATION 10 minutes
- COOKING 40 minutes
- TOTALS 50 minutes
Stuffed shells are such a classic recipe! This version features perfectly cooked pasta shells stuffed with a creamy blend of two cheeses, mushrooms, spinach, and bell peppers. The shells are placed on top of a bed of marinara sauce and then baked until the cheese begins to boil. If you have one, use a large oven-safe skillet to cook the vegetables. You can use the same pan to cook the shells. If you don’t have a suitable ovenproof dish, bake the shells in a roasting pan.
This stuffing is enough for about 16 shells, we recommend adding a couple more shells to the water, as one or more may break during cooking.
Makes 16 shells or 4 servings
18 jumbo dough shells
4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced about 2 cups sliced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
5 ounces of spinach leaves, about 4 full cups
3 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon chopped
2 cups whole milk ricotta
3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 cup
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or replace 1 dry tsp
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups of marinara sauce, try our homemade marinara sauce
2 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese, about 1/2 cup
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the shells, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 9 minutes; drain. Run under cold water to stop cooking; drain again.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and spread them out in one layer. Cook, without stirring, until golden brown on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir and add the chopped bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers begin to soften, about 2 minutes. If you don’t have a proper oven pan, a regular pan will work just fine, you’ll just need to bake the shells on a roasting pan instead of the pan afterwards.
Arrange the spinach leaves in the pan and add a generous pinch of salt. Wait about 30 seconds or until the bottom layer of leaves has started to wilt, then toss the leaves around the pan. As the spinach cooks, keep turning so all the leaves have a chance to hit the bottom of the pan. When the spinach is bright green and almost wilted, remove the pan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool for a minute or two.
Combine ricotta, Parmesan, basil, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Add the vegetables and then taste the mixture. Adjust if necessary with more salt or pepper.
Put the appropriate saucepan in the oven over low heat. Pour in the marinara sauce and heat until thickened. Put out the fire. If you don’t have an oven safe dish, transfer the heated marinara sauce to a large roasting pan. (If you have an oven-safe skillet, you can use that to cook the shells.)
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto each cooked shell, then place the stuffed shell in the hot marinara sauce. If there is any cheese mixture left over, divide it between the shells or enjoy with any leftover shells.
Cook, uncovered, until shells are heated through and cheese has melted on top, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Advice from Adam and Joanne
- A jar (28 ounces) of store-bought marinara sauce has about 3 cups.
- Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We use the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
If you make this recipe, take a photo and use the hashtag #RecetasLatinas – we love seeing your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste
Nutrition Per Serving: Serving 4 Shells / Calories 596 / Total Fat 26g / Saturated Fat 14.6g / Cholesterol 85.1mg / Sodium 1504mg / Carbohydrates 51g / Dietary Fiber 6.3g / Total Sugars 9.8g / Protein 37g