Four cheese stuffed shells are a fun twist on the classic lasagna. They are filled with creamy ricotta, cottage, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese and topped with delicious pasta sauce. Make these delicious stuffed shells for dinner tonight!
- Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella has a mild delicate flavor and becomes wonderfully stringing when it melts.
- Parmesan Cheese: I think freshly grated parmesan cheese tastes the best. Plus you get a pretty good arm work out. You could also use the pre-shredded parmesan cheese found in a plastic tub with the rest of the shredded cheeses. Avoid parmesan cheese found in the green cardboard container. It doesn’t melt properly.
- Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese is made from the curds of milk, either whole, part-skimmed, or skimmed. Cottage cheese is lower in fat than ricotta cheese and is often cheaper. Use small curd cottage cheese for the best texture.
- Ricotta Cheese: Ricotta cheese is smooth with a slightly grainy texture. Whole milk ricotta works best in stuffed shells. Don’t worry we are cutting down some of the calories by also using cottage cheese.
Undercook the shells slightly so they don’t become mushy while the stuffed shells bake. I usually boil my shells for ten minutes. Prepare more shells than the recipe calls for, some of them will inevitably tear.
After boiling the shells and straining them run them under some cool water to prevent sticking and make them easier to handle.
You can, of course, use your favorite jarred pasta sauce. But I really like using my homemade veggie-loaded pasta sauce. One batch makes enough to freeze for several meals. So after the initial preparation, subsequent meals are just as if you were using jarred sauce.
The cheese filling in these shells is super easy to make and completely customizable. Want to add some vegetables? No problem. Try adding some well-drained frozen spinach or sauteed zucchini and mushrooms. When adding vegetables you want to make sure they are cooked and well-drained to avoid adding too much moisture to the filling.
As they are these four cheese stuffed shells are vegetarian. If you have some extra Italian sausage, ground beef or pepperoni lying around, this recipe is a great way to use it up! You can either cook it and mix it into the sauce or simply add it to the filling before stuffing the shells.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix together the cottage cheese, 4 oz of mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Place a little of the sauce in the bottom of an 11×14 pan to prevent the shells from sticking.
- Fill a gallon zip-top bag or pastry bag with the cheese mixture. Cut off a corner and pipe the filling into the shells. Place the shells in the pan seam side up.
- Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
These stuffed shells can be prepared a couple of days in advance. Make them over the weekend and bake it when you’re ready to serve.
Assemble the stuffed shells according to the directions below. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil then refrigerate until ready to bake. The day you want to bake this take it out of the fridge while you’re preheating the oven to 350. Bake as directed in the recipe below.
- Cook the entire package of shells. While technically you don’t need the entire package of pasta some of the shells might break while they cook.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. To prevent mushy shells, we want the shells pliable but not fully cooked. I usually boil my shells for 10 minutes. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.
- Rinse the shells with cold water after boiling. This prevents them from sticking to each other. Be sure to drain them well so you’re not adding excess moisture in the dish.
- When assembling, start with a layer of sauce to prevent the first layer of pasta from sticking to the pan.
- Use a large zip-top bag or pastry bag to pipe the cheese filling into the shells. After mixing the filling, fill a gallon zip-top bag or pastry bag, cut off a corner and pipe the filling into the shells. This trick saves time and creates less mess.
My favorite way to serve these stuffed shells is alongside a crisp side salad and with a piece of crunchy cheesy garlic bread to soak up the extra sauce.
How to store
Cooked stuffed shells will keep in the fridge for at least 5 days. Reheat in the microwave, or warm the whole casserole (covered with foil) in the oven at 350°F until bubbly again.
I do not recommend freezing fully cooked stuffed shells. Many times fully cooked pasta becomes mushy when it is frozen and thawed.
How to freeze uncooked stuffed shells
Stuffed shells make a terrific freezer meal. Once assembled, cover the shells with a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Label with the contents, date, and reheating instructions. Freeze stuffed shells for up to three months.
How to cook frozen stuffed shells
You have two options for cooking frozen stuffed shells:
- Allow the stuffed shells to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove the foil and plastic wrap. Recover with the foil and bake as directed.
- You can also bake stuffed shells straight from the freezer, but plan to double the baking time. Remember to remove the foil and plastic wrap and then recover with the foil.
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