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An oval white baking dish filled with cooked Italian stuffed shells all sitting on a layer of marinara sauce.

Italian Stuffed Shells

Course: Appetizer or Entree
Cuisine: Italian, Italian / American
Keyword: chicken stuffed shells, how to make stuffed shells
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6
Calories: 528kcal
These are amazing Italian stuffed shells. We love using a chicken Italian sausage for the meat, but you could also use standard pork Italian sausage, too, hot or sweet. These shells work as an appetizer or entree and reheat wonderfully the following day.
Print Recipe


  • 9"x13" baking dish


  • 20 jumbo shells dried
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup celery chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 12 oz. chicken sausage Italian, casing removed, usually 3 links
  • 1 tbsp parsley fresh, chopped
  • 1 tbsp basil fresh, chopped
  • 1 tbsp rosemary fresh, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz fresh Ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese whole milk, shredded
  • 3 cups marinara sauce


  • In a pot of boiling lightly salted water set over high heat, cook the pasta shells for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and transfer the shells to a large bowl and toss with a tbsp of olive. Set aside.
  • In a large saute pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery, and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until aromatic.
  • Use a small knife to cut the casings off of the chicken sausage links. Use your fingers to crumble the sausage into the skillet with the cooked vegetables. Cook, stirring often, until the sausage is fully cooked, about 8 minutes more.
  • Stir in the parsley, basil, rosemary, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp black pepper. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Place in the fridge to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Place the ricotta into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the egg until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Mix until fully blended. Set aside.
  • Once the meat mixture has cooled somewhat, remove it from the refrigerator and stir in the cheese mixture until fully combined.
  • Spread about 2 cups of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish.
  • Using a spoon, fill the shells with as much stuffing as you can, about 1/4 cup. Place the shells, stuffed side up, on the sauce. Ladle a little more marinara over the tops of the shells. Sprinkle Parmesan all over the tops of the stuffed shells.
  • Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake the shells for about 12 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the tops of the shells are slightly browned. Serve the shells with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese on the side.



Jumbo shells can be found in the dried pasta section of many well-stocked supermarkets.  If you can't find jumbo shells, you can use lasagna noodles.  Simply cook them according to package directions, and then lay them flat and spread a thin layer of the filling over them. Roll them up tight and bake them the same way you would the shells.
We recommend cooking at least 20 shells, you probably won't use all of them, but several of them may break during the cooking process, so it's good to have extra. 
You can make your own Italian chicken sausage by combining 1 lb of ground chicken with 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 tsp each of dried parsley, basil, and oregano, and 1/2 tsp each of fennel, paprika, red pepper flakes, and salt.   
Smoked mozzarella is a nice twist for this dish.  It does have a pretty distinct taste, so taste it first.  We sometimes go with 1/2 cup of smoked mozzarella and 1/2 cup of whole-milk mozzarella. 
The meat mixture and cheese mixture can be made up to 24 hours in advance.  The marinara can be made up to 5 days in advance, or frozen for up to 2 months.
Leftover shells are delicious!  Place in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 20 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
The stuffed shells will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and can be frozen for up to 1 month. 


Calories: 528kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 1659mg | Potassium: 674mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1410IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 400mg | Iron: 3mg