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Cheese-Stuffed Shells

When I was living in California, I tasted this rich cheesy pasta dish at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. I got the recipe and made a few changes to it in my own kitchen. I'm happy to share it with you. —Lori Mecca, Grants Pass, Oregon
  • Total Time
    Prep: 35 min. Bake: 50 min.
  • Makes
    12 servings (2 casseroles)


  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup 4% cottage cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
  • SAUCE:
  • 1 can (29 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  • In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the spinach, cream cheese and egg. Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and cinnamon if desired.
  • Stuff pasta shells with sausage mixture. Arrange in two shallow 2-qt. or 11x7-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Combine the sauce ingredients; spoon over shells.
  • Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

  • Freeze option: Cool unbaked casseroles; cover and freeze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Cover casserole with foil; bake 50 minutes. Uncover; bake 15-20 minutes longer or until heated through and a thermometer inserted in center reads 165°.
Nutrition Facts
2 stuffed shells: 397 calories, 23g fat (14g saturated fat), 94mg cholesterol, 1097mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 2g fiber), 24g protein.

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  • michelea312
    Aug 9, 2020

    I thought that the recipe was great and my whole family loved it. I had a 29oz can of crushed tomatoes on hand but no sauce so I used that and I didn't have any dried onion so I sautéed a 1/4 cup of fresh onion and warmed the sauce on the stove for 20 mins. while I put the shells together. I also didn't have cottage cheese so I used ricotta instead. I would've liked more sauce, so I will double the sauce next time, but the seasonings were right on and the cream cheese just made in really rich and creamy. A great recipe to play with and adjust it to your families taste!

  • Apie26
    Jul 24, 2020

    I have been making this for years. Its perfect for big gathering as well as potlucks. I myself don't like to put in the cinnamon think its best left out. All in all one of my families favorites!!!

  • Paul
    Apr 23, 2020

    I made this for the first time a few weeks ago and it was asked for 3 times since by my family!! They absolutely love it as do I. Great recipe. Thanks!

  • Angie
    Mar 3, 2020

    I’ve been making these since the recipe came out in TofH!! Absolutely fantastic! Just as good when baked from frozen. One of my “go to” dishes!

  • Sweetypea411
    Dec 29, 2019

    Can ricotta be substituted for cottage cheese?

  • Linda
    Oct 30, 2018

    I have made these shells a lot of times. My family loves them. In fact, my mom wants these for her birthday this year. I do use Johnsonville ground sweet Italian sausage in the recipe. Sometimes I use the hot sausage as well. Everything else stays the same. Great recipe, wonderful taste!

  • 2124arizona
    Jun 23, 2017

    These shell are delightfully cheesy and tasty!!

  • Cook_aholic
    May 5, 2016

    I didn't cook my pasta shells so long since everything was really only warming in the oven. The other reason I didn't cook them so long was because I took the wonderful idea in a review here and began sending the shells to shut-ins or people I know don't cook for themselves much. Since I knew they would have to rewarm them, I didn't want them overcooked.

  • jiljilsch
    May 26, 2015

    These shells were absolutely amazing! I omitted the sausage as I was serving them as a side dish, but I also ate the leftovers as a meatless main later in the week and they were equally as good when starring as the main dish. I'm positive these will be equally delicious with the sausage added! My significant other couldn't stop popping shells, he was addicted!

  • Sue Zappa
    Apr 10, 2015

    Oh, this is one of our family's favorite recipes! The only change I make is to use a 28 oz. jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce since I'm usually in a hurry to get supper on the table. We love the cheesiness (is that a word?) with the pasta shells & sauce. A little taste of heaven! :)