Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells
Calling all cheese lovers! These Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells are a cheesy explosion of flavor! With cheese inside each tender pasta shell and even more cheese in the Alfredo sauce on top, everybody will want seconds!
I’m a sucker for pasta and cheese – I just am. You should see my pasta when I go out to eat, and the waiter brings around the cheese shredder and says those magical words, “Just say when…”. Mt. Parmesan needs to form before I say when, and it must be a big mountain!
This copycat Olive Garden stuffed shells recipe is the bee’s knees. It has cheese inside the shells and my Better Than Olive Garden Alfredo sauce on top, and when it’s baked, it is bubbly and hot, golden brown and oh-so-delicious. Just resist the temptation to dive in too quickly! The super-hot cheesy shells will ooze cheese everywhere, so let it cool down a wee bit to firm up the cheese and prevent unwanted burns.
Let’s talk sauce. I love Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce but can’t always get out to eat. So I made my copycat version, which I think is better than the original. I perfected the recipe with this Seafood Alfredo recipe, but the sauce is pretty much the same for these Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells.
- Jumbo pasta shells – About 15 of them.
- Ricotta cheese – I like using extra smooth ricotta.
- Italian cheese blend – Pre shredded is fine.
- Butter – Yes, there’s butter in the sauce!
- Garlic – Fresh garlic; minced.
- Heavy cream – Nobody said Alfredo sauce was diet-friendly!
- Parmesan cheese – Use the good stuff, and save the green canister cheese for another recipe. Freshly shredded deli-quality Parm is what you want here.
- Mozzarella – Save some for sprinkling on top.
- Salt and pepper – To taste.
What Are Jumbo Pasta Shells?
Jumbo pasta shells are also called conchiglie, and they’re shaped like conch shells. They’re perfect for stuffing and hold 2-3 tablespoons of stuffing. You can find them in the pasta aisle of most grocery stores.
How To Make The Best Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the jumbo pasta shells until al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain them and let them cool so you can handle them without burning your hands.
- Mix the ricotta cheese, Italian cheese blend, egg, and some salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.
- Stuff the cheese mixture inside the cooked shells, and layer them in a 2-quart baking dish.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, cream, and a pinch of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking often.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and cook the sauce on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and is smooth. Make sure you give it a good whisk every couple of minutes! Add the mozzarella cheese – reserving about ¼ cup to sprinkle on top – and stir until it is smooth.
- Pour the Alfredo sauce over the filled shells. Bake at 350-F or until the cheese has browned and is bubbly.Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then dig in!
- You can prep the shells, including stuffing them, and make the sauce ahead of time and assemble the dish, so all you need to do is bake it. Add a few minutes of baking time if the dish has been refrigerated first.
- When cheese is the star of the dish, use good-quality cheese! Freshly shredded Parmesan has the best flavor and will make the best Alfredo sauce.
- Don’t overcook the shells! They’ll cook a bit more in the oven, so make sure they’re quite al dente when you drain them from the boiling water.
- You can use any kind of ricotta, including low-fat. I like extra-smooth full-fat ricotta in this dish.
This is a rich and hearty dish, so if you’re going to serve a side dish with it, make sure it is light. I like serving a fresh, green salad with my favorite balsamic salad dressing or just some cut-up veggies with a great dipping sauce. If you don’t mind a few extra carbs, this honey oat bread is terrific for mopping up all that yummy sauce.
Store your cooled stuffed shells in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave or cover them and reheat the shells in a low oven.
Cheese Lover’s Stuffed Shells
- 15 jumbo pasta shells
- 1.5 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 cups Italian cheese blend
- 1 egg
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 3-4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup Mozzarella cheese plus more for sprinkling
- salt & pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot of salted water, cook the jumbo pasta shells until al dente. Drain; let cool so you can handle them without burning your hands.
- In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, Italian cheese blend, egg, & some salt & pepper to taste. Stuff the cheese mixture inside the cooked shells. Place them in a 2 quart baking dish.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, cream, & a pinch of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, whisking often. Add the Parmesan cheese and cook the sauce on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and is smooth. Make sure you give it a good whisk every couple of minutes! Add the mozzarella cheese and stir until smooth.
- Pour the Alfredo sauce over the filled shells. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has browned & is bubbly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.