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


I feel like this is what comfort food is meant to be. Not terrible for you, but definitely terribly delicious. These look amazing, and I'm loving the idea of adding a dash of lemon; totally something I need to try! Your new home looks lovely. Best of luck with making it your own!


Sounds like a wonderful gift for father's day to me! Or any day, for that matter.


The photos of the stuffed shells actually look appetizing. Thanks

Jim Murphy

Oh, stuffed shells -- they are my ultimate comfort food. My mom would stuff the spinach-ricotta filling into jumbo shells and would throw a dash of nutmeg or a stick of cinnamon in the sauce. I still make them whenever I'm feeling nostalgic. Congrats on the move and the new place! HS: Still representing P. Street - just in the other direction :) Let's hook up for drinks/lunch soon A. xo

aida mollenkamp

Hi Heidi, Love the recipe and how beautiful your Blog is. You are truly an Artist! I just want to share my Vegan thoughts on Stuffed Shells! I Puree Firm tofu in my food processor with Olive oil, a little sauteed Garlic, South River Brand Chick Pea Miso (adds a Cheesy flavor) and Some Eden Brand Umeboshi Paste. Blend to a Creamy Smooth consistency and then I fold in Yellow onion which I have gently cooked till translucent in Olive Oil and Sea Salt. I add finely minced Basil and Pipe or spoon the filling into my Shells! Voila Vegan Stuffed Shells!

Jillian Lauren Lisitano

This looks seriously delicious. Don't even know why I have never made stuffed shells before... Your new home seems pretty promising. I love old houses.


Looks like Sunday Supper to me!

Vanessa @ Project Zen

Read this today, was inspired and made it tonight for dinner, absolutely fabulous! I loved the idea of adding lemon zest, I also added some to the cheese filling. Everyone loved it! Would for sure make this again and for dinner guests. Thank you for the inspiration!


The shells look so homey, and I can only imagine how great they tasted. I just moved into a new apartment two weeks ago and have been missing getting into the kitchen and making a meal with all the mess around us. Your almond soba noodles really hit the spot last evening and gave us the frist taste of feeling at home in the new apartment. Thanks!

Potato Chops and Boneless Chicken

Looks great and your new house sounds beautiful. I should remember to get pasta shells on my next trip to the store.


Love the lemon zest, ricotta, tomato combination.. Simple and gorgeous!


stuffed shells are a favorite in this house, but i haven't made them in years. i should, though, so thanks!


How nice to be completely moved and anoint the new place with a first meal. Lemon zest in my pasta sauce from now on. I also chop 1/2 sweet onion really small and nearly burn it while sauteing it to add to my sauce. Learned this at fab Italian restaurant I work at. Try it sometime?


Love your blog. I just purchased your cookbook. Am waiting to get it. I have tried some of your recipes from on-line & enjoyed them all. Good luck on your new place. It looks beautiful..I have to make the stuffed shells with lemon zest.

Carol Couturier

This is one of my favorite childhood recipes. My mother always made the sauce and stuffing from scratch. I've never made them or asked her for her recipe (which in any case would consist of "Throw some ricotta and eggs together, ...." etc., with no measurements mentioned!) So thanks very much for posting this recipe, with delicious sounding variations, and enjoy your new home!


Stuffed shells are one of my absolute favorites. They remind me of my small hometown on the east coast where there's an Italian restaurant on practically every corner. I love that these look fresher than many that I've seen - without an obscene amount of mozzarella covering them up. I'll definitely be making these very soon!


It's hot and muggy out in nyc right now, but these still look delicious. A good way to use up some summer basil and tomatoes, too! Might have to be dinner sometime next week...

Lynna @wholeytreats

Wow. Absolutely gorgeous. I am also in the midst of a move, so maybe I will gather my Italian spirit and make those shells, they sound firmly grounded and deliciously simple. Happy settling in!


I am always sooo thrilled when I learn I already make something the way you do! Good luck in your new place. Being intimately aquainted with so many lovely homes in SF I can understand your mixed feelings.


FYI, even though the intro says there's lemon zest in the sauce and the filling, the recipe only mentions it as part of the sauce. It says half the lemon zest goes on the bottom of the pan. I'm guessing the other half goes into the shell filling, but there's no mention of this. I think this sounds AMAZING, by the way, and can't WAIT to try it. My husband will be thrilled by such a simple comfort food meal.

Alison @ Tree-Top Studio

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