You don't have to be Italian to appreciate the bake-and-serve simplicity of a big plate of stuffed shells. It's the kind of Sunday supper that transcends tradition to make everyone happy. So when you've got a whole mess of people to feed, this is the dish that benefits both host and guests. There's no unexpected additions of spinach to keep picky eaters away, and no hidden meat, so vegetarians will be happy. (Although that's not to say you couldn't sub in some sautéed greens or sausage if you wanted!)
Easiest Stuffed Shells: Watch the Video
If you really want to spread the prep out over a few days, the shells can be boiled, and then tossed with a bit of vegetable oil or olive oil before cooling and refrigerating in a covered container. The entire pan can also be frozen for future potlucks — follow these instructions for freezing enchiladas and line the pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
This is a recipe I've turned to more than a few times since it was first published. It satisfies all my cravings for Italian-American, red sauce comfort food and it can easily be scaled to feed a crowd. There's nothing I feel really needs to be changed here, except I've scaled up the amount of marinara sauce to ensure the shells are extra saucy.
- Sheela, January 2018
Classic Stuffed Shells
Serves 4 to 6
jumbo pasta shells (from a 12-ounce box)
ricotta cheese (about 2 heaping cups)
shredded mozzarella cheese (12 ounces), divided
finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
ground black pepper
(24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (3 cups), divided
finely grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook according to package directions. Drain, then briefly rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.
Place the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed; the overall saltiness will depend on the cheeses used.
Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish.
Stuff each shell with about 1 heaping tablespoon of the mozzarella filling and place filling-side up in the dish. If some shells split during the cooking process, you may have a few fragments left over, but you should end up with about 2 dozen shells in the dish.
Top the shells evenly with the remaining 2 cups sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and Parmesan or Pecorino.
Bake uncovered until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
Make ahead: The shells can be assembled up to 12 hours in advance. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to bake. Alternatively, bake the shells completely, cool to room temperature, and cover with aluminum foil. Reheat in a 300°F oven.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.