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

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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


Dear Heidi, I knew your new home would have this lovely woodcarving and window treatments. I too love the old and always want to see them rehabilitated to their original glory. The shells look awesome too. My hubby love them and your recipe is much like mine. God bless you in your new home!!!

Beverly Jane

I haven't made stuffed shells in ages!! And the idea of adding lemon zest is brilliant!


That is so funny that you prepped the shells in one apartment and baked them in another. I really do love shells -- I just had a sort of Provencal dish with pasta shells, mussels, and a tomato broth. So I'll enjoy trying this recipe.

Run Fast Travel Slow

Nice apartment! this pasta looks very good. I will make it for my boyfriend, he is italian... this means I really trust you!!!! ;)


Love the idea of using lemon zest and even adding olives/roasted veggies to the filling--thanks so much! My mom passed her very traditional recipe down to me and I love making this on Sundays with the option of freezing some or having leftovers for lunch during the week. It's also a great dish to offer to a friend/relative that's moving (unless you cook it yourself! :) or a family member that had surgery or had loved ones pass away, because even picky eaters/kids seem to like stuffed shells! Thanks!

Leigh (Books in the Burgh)

Oh yum! I've recently become enamored of the ricotta-lemon zest combo, although I've been using in layered fruit desserts rather than savory dishes. I'll have to try with with some GF pizza/ pasta. Thanks for the idea!


If only I ate cheese, and I almost feel like doing it anyway because those shells look so good. What a beautiful place you've moved into. Congratulations!

Debra the Northwest Vegetarian

Yup, I've just added this to my meal planning list for next week...or maybe this weekend.

laura k

Stuffed of the best comfort foods on the planet and great for breaking in a new place to make it feel like home. =)


This is a great recipe for Father's Day. Thanks for sharing, Heidi, and congratulations on the new apartment!

Melanie at Brave the Kitchen

Heidi, love your site and recipes! Enjoy the new apartment.. cannot wait to see more recipes and details.. Greetings from Vienna, Austria


I make these with homemade manicotti noodles. The noodle is like a crepe and it's as fast to make a batch as it is to cook dried pasta. I like your lemon zest innovation.


Making something comforting and traditional really is perfect for a night in a new home. I love your use of lemon zest in this recipe. It's just the right ingredient to lift it up. Your new place looks absolutely lovely, tres chic!


Gule gule oturun ! Which can be translated as "May you be happy in your new house " Thanks for this tasty recipe. We have a similar version in Turkey with meat as a filling but this one seems to be a great alternative...


looks delicious, ultimate comfort food.

nicole franzen

Beautiful comfort food. I have no idea where to get those giant shells from here in the south of Spain but I'll try as I really have to make this recipe. Have fun settling into your new pad and thanks.


I've not made stuffed shells for ages. Thanks for the reminder! I think I'm going to make a batch with my homemade ricotta. Any ideas whether this will freeze ok? HS: Yes, I like to freeze the un-sauced shells individually on a cookie sheet for a couple hours, then pile them in a double-freezer bag until I'm ready to use them. That way, I sauce and bake whatever quantity I'm after at the time.


Your stuffed shells look amazing. I have actually made these in the past, but your recipe looks delicious, yet simple, and maybe easy to make on a busy evening. I have always loved non-meat entrees, and these look perfectly delicious. Thank you for the beautiful picture.

Amy (Newbie Veggie)

Your writing and your photos are so beautiful. I know that feeling of moving from somewhere that was just so...home. My parents moved in November out of my childhood home up to a Lake about 20 minutes north. Going back and packing up their house was so strange and I felt like I'll never go back to my hometown - even though it's so close. But now that they're settled in and it's summer on the lake, I'm so happy to visit!

d.liff @ yelleBELLYboo

Definately not a cheat meal! These are beautiful, and funnily enough I actually bought some giant shells today to make for dinner as soon as we're actually home for dinner! Congrats on the first night meal though!

jess☆ @ Multicultural Melbourne

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