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Italian Stuffed Shells

A dear friend first brought over this stuffed shells recipe. Now I take it to other friends' homes and to potlucks, because it's always a big hit! —Beverly Austin, Fulton, Missouri
  • Total Time
    Prep: 50 min. Bake: 35 min.
  • Makes
    8 servings


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups 4% cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained


  • In a large skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium heat, crumbling beef, until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in water, tomato paste, bouillon and oregano. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine egg, cottage cheese, 1 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Stuff shells with cheese mixture.
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange shells in a greased 13x9-in. or 3-qt. baking dish. Pour meat sauce over shells. Cover; bake 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer.
    Freeze option: After assembling, cover and freeze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake as directed, adding remaining 1 cup mozzarella after 30-40 minutes and increasing time as necessary for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • Get a nutritious boost by adding a 5-ounce package of chopped baby spinach to the cheese mixture.
  • The sweet aniselike flavor and bright color make basil a great garnish choice for this.
  • Nutrition Facts
    3 stuffed shells and sauce: 430 calories, 17g fat (8g saturated fat), 94mg cholesterol, 866mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 3g fiber), 32g protein.


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    Average Rating:
    • Adele
      Jan 15, 2021

      No. I will not even make this as it is. I don't like cottage cheese. If I do make this, I will sub out mascarpone cheese for the cottage cheese, and I will use my own meat sauce. The style is great; the substance leaves a bit to be desired.

    • Bird55
      Jul 11, 2020

      Simple and delicious ??

    • Debbie
      Apr 20, 2020

      This is very similar to manicotti and I love that

    • Christina
      Nov 4, 2019

      Love this recipe! Just made it for the 2nd time and wanted to experiment so I switched the sauce recipe around slightly. I cooked down the beef and then pulled it from the pan

    • rwippel
      Apr 15, 2019

      I was a skeptical of the meat sauce using tomato paste and hot water, but it was very tasty. I enjoyed the cottage cheese stuffing, but didn’t think it was enough for 24 shells. The amount if filing needs bumped up a bit.

    • Donnis
      Mar 28, 2019

      Had no flavor not enough cheese for all the shells ! Will put sad face on this one

    • Tom
      Dec 30, 2018

      We loved the dish. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Mike
      Dec 16, 2018

      I read the reviews to find out how THIS PARTICULAR RECIPE rated. NOT how you modified it to fit your particular tastes and desires even before tasting the original recipe. Why else comment on it?

    • mandyleigh86
      Dec 3, 2018

      No comment left

    • recipehound54
      May 4, 2018

      I love a recipe that has some wiggle room for customization without changing the dish into a completely new creation. I, too, like several other reviewers, substituted ricotta cheese for most of the cottage cheese. The container of ricotta was 12 oz. so I used it and added 4 oz. of cottage cheese to fill out the quantity required. I slightly undercooked the shells so that they would retain their shape and not fall apart when filling/baking. All other ingredients and procedures were followed as written. I liked the dish; it was a nice change from and easier prep than lasagna. My husband was less enthusiastic. When I make this again, I think that I may try the modifying the sauce by either using half oregano-half dried basil or by using Italian seasoning. The oregano was a bit overpowering and needed a boost with some basil. I also think that I will add about half a teaspoon of stevia (or sugar) to the sauce; it might balance off the sharpness (bitterness) of the tomato paste. I split the recipe into two containers, baked one and froze the other. The size of the dish does matter; I kept the shells close to one another in a 7x9-inch glass dish so that they would retain their shape and the cheese mixture would not ooze out of the shells. We added a green salad to the meal and it was great!