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This recipe for Simple Stuffed Shells is just that: simple. Use sauce that’s store-bought or made in advance and it’s really quick too, coming together in about 45 minutes.
The Versatile Red Sauce recipe in my ebook ‘As Seen On IG‘ is hands down the most praised recipe in the customer reviews, if you happen to be looking for a good from-scratch sauce recipe.
Sidebar: I recently released a mini-ebook ‘Got An Hour?‘ which has recipes for five of the most popular meals I’ve prepared on Instagram. It sells for $5 but if you leave a review on either of my two other books I’ll send it to you for free!
OK so back to the shells!
This version of stuffed shells is vegetarian, but you can use a meat sauce if you like. I usually make double batches, one with meat and one without (for the kid). None of us really care for ricotta (my youngest daughter won’t touch it unless it’s in something I prepared) so I mix it with grated parmesan and asiago, chopped parsley, granulated garlic, and other seasonings to liven it up a bit. Unlike lasagna, I don’t feel the need to use eggs to bind. The filling stays in the shells pretty well as is.
I almost always use low moisture mozzarella when baking pasta but my husband bought fresh this time. We’re not making any needless trips out of the house right now so I used it, which watered down my sauce.
No bueno! It doesn’t really affect the taste but if you want to avoid that layer of tomato soup at the bottom of your baking dish, always go for low moisture.
Switch it up:
Add cooked, chopped (and drained of excess moisture) spinach or kale to the filling.
Add ground beef or turkey to your sauce.
Try mascarpone or goat cheese instead of ricotta (they do not taste the same so if you’re not familiar with them I recommend trying a lil’ bit to see what you think).
You can watch me prepare these Simple Stuffed Shells (and sauce too) on my Instagram.
Jumbo shells stuffed with three cheeses, covered in sauce and more cheese.
3–4 C marinara sauce
12oz jumbo shells
32 oz container of ricotta cheese
1/2 C parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 C aged asiago, freshy grated
1lb low-moisture mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced
2 tbsp parsley, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Start by cooking your shells in a stock pot until they’re al dente, according to the package directions. If the package doesn’t tell you to salt your water you should still salt the water. Always.
While the pasta is boiling, mix together all of the seasonings and cheeses except the mozzarella. Stir to combine very well, then stir in the parsley. Set it aside.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF and lightly oil a large glass baking dish. Spoon about 2/3 a cup of sauce into the dish and spread it around so lightly covers the bottom. Use more if needed.
When your pasta shells are done, drain them and set up a lil’ assembly station on your counter with the bowl of shells, the bowl of ricotta mixture and the baking dish. Set the sauce and the mozzarella somewhere close by.
Stuff your shells! I use my hands and a spoon, holding the shell open in my hands and using the tip of the spoon to force it in. Some folks use a piping bag – or a ziploc bag when the end cut off – to squeeze it in. Overfill them just a little so that the shells stay open and the filling is visible. Place them side by side, squeezing them in together (not too tight) so they remain stable and upright. Continue until something runs out, or the pan is full.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the tops of all the shells. Once that’s finished, cover everything with the mozzarella, evenly and completely.
Place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is just beginning to brown.
Remove and let rest for a few minutes before you dive in. If you have any fresh basil, chiffon a small bunch, and sprinkle it over the top of the shells for an extra hint of delicious. Enjoy!