Stuffed Shells Recipe

A stuffed shells recipe made with lemon zest and bright tomato sauce. Classic, with a hint of a twist. Everyone loves them.

Stuffed Shells

Wayne loves stuffed shells - straight up, red sauced, ricotta-stuffed snails of baked deliciousness. I made them five years ago, when we moved from our apartment a few blocks south of where we currently live, and I baked a batch the other night. They've made appearances on our table dozens of times in between. Said another way, as far as pasta recipes are concerned, stuffed shells are just straight-up crowd pleasers, and couldn't be simpler to make!

Stuffed Shells Recipe
When I originally post this, I admitted stuffed shells were a bit of a cheat for a first-night meal. I did all the prep ahead of time, and then drove the shells up the street in the backseat of our car. But, man, did they hit the spot after an incredibly long day. And it was no big deal to make them.Stuffed Shells Recipe
Although most of the kitchen was packed up, I was able to made a quick pot of my favorite tomato sauce a couple days prior. The day before the move, I made the ricotta mixture, filled each shell, and arranged them in a big baking dish. All I had to do is get them to the new apartment intact, and wash a mixing bowl and spoon.
Stuffed Shells Recipe
You fill each shell with a generous dollop of the ricotta mixture. The shells are nested in a baking dish coated with simple tomato sauce. More of the sauce goes on top, and then everything is baked.Stuffed Shells Recipe

Stuffed Shells: A Few Tips and Techniques

The sauce: I like to make these shells with lemon zest in the filling and in the sauce. Not typical, but really tasty. The sauce I use is basically this five-minute tomato sauce. It's great here, on pizza, on just about everything. I love the pop of heat you get from the red pepper flakes in the sauce.

Individual Portions: You can bake the shells family-style, in one big pan, as pictured here. But, you can also bake them in individual portions in ramekins, gratin dishes, or Staubs, if you like.

Filling Ideas: Play around with the ricotta filling too - sometimes I add chopped olives, or chopped spinach, herbs, roasted seasonal vegetables, etc.

Stuffed Shells Recipe

A Kid-friendly Recipe

Kids love filling the shells, and then lining them up side by side in the baking dish. It's a great recipe to get the whole family involved. Enjoy! -h

More Pasta Recipes

Favorite Pasta Sauces

Other Favorite Italian Recipes

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Stuffed Shells Recipe

4.24 from 34 votes

As I mention up above, you can make the components for this a couple days ahead of time if needed - i.e. sauce, filling. Also, you won't be able to fit 25-30 shells in your pan, but a few are always casualties of the boil, so I call for more than you'll likely need.

  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup / 80 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • scant 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28- ounce can crushed red tomatoes
  • 1 14- ounce can crushed red tomatoes
  • 1 15- ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup / ~5 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of chives, minced
  • 25-30 jumbo dried pasta shells
  1. Oil a 13 x 9-inch / 33 x 23-cm baking pan, or equivalent, and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F / 180C with a rack in the middle.
Make the Sauce
  1. To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant - you don't want the garlic to brown. Now stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste (you don't want to burn your tongue)...If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.
Make the Filling
  1. To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.
  2. Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water - until al dente. If you overcook, the shells will tear as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands - see photo.
  1. Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with ricotta, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr 15 mins
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment


What a classic. It's one of my family's most favorite dishes. Yours looks absolutely divine! :-)


Beautiful apartment! These stuffed shells are now on my menu for next week!

Jenny (@ The Housewife Project)

Stunning! Both the apartment and the shells! Those details in a home are exactly what I would fall in love as well. Congratulations and good luck on your new adventure.


These look delicious, and I am particularly interested in trying this sauce! Also- love your bowl! Is this homemade pottery? HS: Hi Mich: Thanks! it's actually a very old black-bottom French baking dish of some sort.


Delicious !!

Hari Chandana

I just made two huge pans of pasta for a family dinner party. One ricotta/spinach stuffed cannelloni with cream sauce & lots of provolone and one with red and white sauced hand made/rolled noodles. After seeing this I think I may make it too- it just looks so good and besides my Italian spouse will finish any left overs. Maybe with roasted vegetables and spring peas. YUM


I think its the perfect first night meal. I've been absent...why did you move? New digs look awesome !

Tam Glo

My wife loves cheese filled shells, but, the rest of us prefer beef filling. Can you post this variation?

Sheldon Lebowitz

"Casualties of the boil"!!! I love that!


Thank you ... I have always wanted to make stuffed shells or manicotti. Can you suggest another non tomato sauce? Allergies to night shade vegs.


I had been thinking of making this dish. You apartment is lovely. I hope you make many happy memories and dishes here.

Ann B.

I just found your post and look forward to following you. I am excited to read today's post and see that you are in the bay area. And that you have gluten free dishes! Congratulations on the beautiful new apartment.


I love the idea of lemon zest! Sounds tasty!


Stuffed shells are a blank canvas, great recipe that calls for adding what you love, like chopped artichoke hearts and mushrooms for me!

Tom @ Tall Clover Farm

Great recipe! Stuffed shells are such comfort food - sounds like an awesome first night in a new place! Congrats on the apartment (the moulding is beautiful) and good luck with the unpacking. :)


This is pretty much what we're having for dinner tonight - I like a tiny kick of chilli in there too and maybe some nutmeg in the filling just to bring it to life. Although you have managed the impossible and made the dish look pretty which I have never been able to ;)


Gorgeous apartment :) I love pasta with a simple, good tomato based sauce, and stuffed shells beats stuffing cannelloni sheets anyday!


a recipe I will definitely try. one time in college my friend and I decided to make stuffed shells without a recipe because we know we had a plethora knowledge of italian food from watching a lot of giada and surprisingly they came out good. good enough that people started asking us for the recipe. but these look even better and since I don't eat meat I love finding recipes that I could cook and eat. bookmarking!


my husband adores shells and cheese. I have been wanting to make them for some time and this might just be the kick in the pants I need. i am totally going to spike olives and capers in the sauce.


Yum! Those look amazing! As simple as they are they still look and sound delicious! May have to make sometime this weekend! As always your photos are gorgeous, and are amazing at adding to your already inspirational writing!


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