This recipe takes s little bit of work but the work is worth the reward. These shells come out so creamy and delicious and they are definitely a dinner everyone will look forward to!
- 4 cups of cottage cheese (sometimes I use 1/2 ricotta 1/2 cottage cheese)
- 1 cup of powdered type Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 3 tablespoons of fresh minced parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs whisked
- 1 box of large shells, boiled, rinsed and cooled
- 4 cups of your favorite sauce, I make my own
I prefer to use cottage cheese over ricotta because it is creamier and my shells don’t dry out.
Step 1: add a cup and a half of sauce to the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish
Step 2: mix the cottage cheese with the powdered Parmesan, the 2 cups of mozzarella, the parsley and the salt and pepper. Taste it at this point to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.
Step 3: fold in the whisked eggs and make sure it’s combined well
Step 4: use a tablespoon and fill each shell pretty full with the cheese mixture then add the shells to the pan
Step 5: top the shells with another cup or so of your sauce and sprinkle a cup of mozzarella on top. Bake this at 375° for about 45 minutes
Step 6: at the 45 min mark I add more sauce to the top, then the rest of the cheese and then turn up the oven to 400° for about 15 minutes, then I turn on the broiler (watch carefully) and let the cheese get all bubbly and brown.
Choosing the Right Pasta: Opt for large pasta shells with wide openings for easy stuffing and a satisfying ratio of filling to pasta.
Perfectly Cooked Shells: Cook the pasta shells until al dente, as they will continue to cook slightly during baking. Be careful not to overcook.
Ricotta Filling Consistency: Achieve a creamy and smooth ricotta filling by blending it with an egg, grated Parmesan, and finely chopped fresh herbs.
Versatile Fillings: Customize the filling with ingredients like spinach, sautéed mushrooms, or ground meat for added flavor and texture.
Even Filling Distribution: Use a spoon or piping bag to evenly distribute the filling into each shell, ensuring a consistent taste throughout.
Flavorful Tomato Sauce: Use a high-quality tomato sauce or make your own with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs for a rich and flavorful base.
Layer of Mozzarella: Top the stuffed shells with a generous layer of mozzarella for a gooey, cheesy finish.
Covering During Baking: Cover the baking dish with foil for the first part of baking to prevent the tops of the shells from drying out.
1. Can I prepare stuffed shells in advance?
Yes, you can assemble the shells ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to bake. This is convenient for busy days or entertaining.
2. What’s a good side dish for stuffed shells?
Serve with a simple green salad, garlic bread, or a side of roasted vegetables to complement the richness of the dish.
3. Can I freeze stuffed shells?
Stuffed shells can be frozen before or after baking. If freezing before, thaw before baking. If freezing after baking, cool completely, then freeze in an airtight container.
4. How long do stuffed shells need to bake?
Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Adjust baking time based on your oven and desired level of browning.
5. What do I do if the pasta shells are sticking together?
Add a bit of olive oil or cooking spray to the cooked shells, spread them out on a tray, and let them cool. This helps prevent sticking.
6. Can I use a different type of cheese?
While mozzarella is classic, you can experiment with other cheeses like provolone, fontina, or a blend for different flavor profiles.
7. How do I reheat leftover stuffed shells?
Reheat in the oven at a low temperature, covered with foil, to prevent the shells from drying out.
8. Is there a vegetarian version of stuffed shells?
Absolutely! Omit the meat and enhance the ricotta filling with vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, or bell peppers for a delicious vegetarian option.