Three Cheese Stuffed Shells are jumbo shells loaded with cheese and topped with a hearty meat sauce that will sure to be a recipe on repeat.
Not much can go wrong when it comes to pasta and cheese, and Three Cheese Stuffed Shells are no exception. Plus, it’s a recipe you can make ahead of time! So, it’s definitely a keeper of a recipe. It’s also easy to change up the kinds of cheese you use as well as make it with or without meat.
HOW TO MAKE THREE CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS
There are three main steps to this recipe.
Boil the Pasta Shells
The trick with boiling the noodles is that you want them to be “al dente”. That basically means you don’t want them soggy. A soggy jumbo shell will not hold up to the filling process. You want the noodle to be soft and pliable, but still a little firm. A typical jumbo shell noodle needs to cook for about 9 minutes. You will want them to cool off a bit before you start filling them unless you have a cooking glove, the shells will be hot. One trick is to put a small amount of olive oil over the noodles after draining. Tossing them in the oil will keep them from sticking together.
Stuff the Noodles
First, in a large bowl, mix together the eggs, ricotta cheese, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, the white cheddar cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper until well combined. Once you have that blended nicely together you can either spoon the mixture into the cooled noodles OR, you can fill a ziplock bag with the mixture. If you use a ziplock bag, snip off the corner of the bag, and pipe the mixture into the shell. I tried it both ways and the ziplock method was much cleaner. Place each stuffed shell into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
Bake the Noodles
Preheat the oven to 350°F while you prepare the meat sauce. The sauce will go over the stuffed shells before you bake them. In a large skillet, brown the hamburger and add the pasta sauce. Pour the meat sauce over the pan of stuffed shells. Then, sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on top and bake for 45 minutes.
ALTERNATIVES TO RICOTTA CHEESE
Sometimes I hear from folks that they just don’t like Ricotta Cheese. I get it. It doesn’t seem to have the same texture as traditional “cheese”. If you are one of these people, have no fear…I have you covered. There are a few options for the Ricotta naysayers out there.
Adjust the Ratios: You can reduce the amount of ricotta by half and increase the mozzarella by the same amount. That way you will still get the necessary moisture that makes this dish amazing, but it won’t have the overwhelming flavor and texture of ricotta.
Substitutions: There are several options when it comes to Ricotta substitutions. They will all alter the flavor of the dish slightly but they will probably be better if you are against the aforementioned cheese in the first place.
- Cottage Cheese – It has a mild taste, similar to ricotta but it is less creamy. Cottage cheese is also low in fat and calories, so it is a healthier option too.
- Goat Cheese – Fresh goat cheese (not aged goat cheese) is rich and creamy, with a mild but slightly tart flavor.
- Queso Fresco – This fresh Mexican cheese has a mild, salty, and milky flavor. The main difference is that queso fresco is drier than Ricotta, but it can be grated or crumbled in lieu of Ricotta cheese.
- Cream Cheese – Both have a soft, creamy texture but cream cheese is higher in fat than Ricotta cheese.
THREE CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS VARIATIONS
In this recipe, I added ground beef to the sauce before I poured it over the shells. You could definitely leave out the meat and make this a meatless recipe.
Other options for the sauce is to substitute the beef with turkey or sausage. You could also add chicken to the mix. Just make sure it is shredded chicken so it is easily stuffed in the shells.
I also like to add some options for adding vegetables to my meals. Here are some ideas:
- yellow onions
- green peppers
- red, yellow, or orange peppers
- jalapeno peppers
- more sauce (you can make this even better by adding the second jar of sauce)
All of these can be sauteed or cooked and added to the spaghetti sauce before pouring on the shells.
CAN I FREEZE THREE CHEESE STUFFED SHELLS?
The answer is YES! Isn’t it great when you can prepare a meal ahead of time and just take it out of the freezer when you are ready to make it? I feel so accomplished when I have at least one meal prepped for the week! To freeze Three Cheese Stuffed Shells, simply prepare the meal following the instructions, but don’t bake it. The only difference is to place the stuffed shells in a 9×13 inch aluminum pan. Cover it with aluminum foil and don’t forget to write the name of the dish and the instructions, along with the date. When you are ready to bake it, take it out of the freezer, uncover it, and bake it for 45 minutes at 350°F. This will last up to 3 months in the freezer. Fruire! (Enjoy!)
- 1 package (12 ounces) jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 container (16 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 jar (28 ounces) pasta sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cook pasta until al dente, per package instructions. Drain.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, ricotta cheese, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, 1 cup of white cheddar cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper until well combined.
Stuff each jumbo shell with cheese mixture and place in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Set aside while you prepare the meat sauce.
In a large skillet, brown the hamburger and add in the pasta sauce.
Pour the meat sauce over the pan of stuffed shells.
Top with reserved mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until they are bubbly.