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24 Best Stuffed Shells Recipes (All Types)

Stuffed shells with mushroom and Italian sausage.

Stuffed shells can be easy to make, but they look like a very fancy dish that you can be proud to serve at a family gathering or a potluck.  There are a lot of different ways to make this dish.  Large pasta shells are often the main component of the dish, but there are variations that use large lasagna noodles as the main component as well.  

Fillings can contain a wide variety of meats, vegetables, and sauces.  This collection of recipes has a lot of variety; there are options here that are hearty, diet-friendly, and meet the needs of a wide variety of picky-eaters.  

For nearly all of these recipes, you can use store-bought dry pasta shells.  When you cook them, leave them slightly undercooked.  Once the shells are soaked in sauce and another filling, fully-cooked shells can seem a bit mushy.

Near the end of the list, we have included recipes with Mexican flavors, followed by two of our favorite stuffed shell desserts.  Again, don’t be afraid to experiment!

1. Stuffed Shells with Mushrooms and Italian Sausage 

Stuffed Shells with scallions as garnished.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is one of the classic recipes for stuffed shells.  Sausage and mushroom is fancier than the standard ground beef and tomato sauce that is typically used for a weekday night dinner.  If you can, try varying the type of sausage that you use in this recipe.  Chicken sausage can make the recipe much healthier, and it gives a unique flavor to the dish.

2. Spinach and Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

Tomato sauce and spinach stuffed shells.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This variation on stuffed shells is a great option for Meatless Monday or a vegetarian family.  Replacing the cheese with a vegan option can turn this recipe into a vegan one as well.  The spinach makes it full of vitamins, including the all-important B-12.

3. Best Cheesy Stuffed Shells

Ground beef and cheesy Stuffed Shells.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe uses several different types of cheese and ground beef.  The end result is an almost white dish that is very pretty to serve at a large event.  You may want to consider swapping the ground beef for ground turkey or tofu.

4. Three Cheese Jumbo Shells

Jumbo shells with grated cheese and basils.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This version of stuffed shells uses mostly ingredients from the pantry, making it a fairly easy recipe to throw together on a weekday night.  Be sure to use the largest pasta shells you can find.

5. Chicken Broccoli Shells

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe is a great one to make ahead of time and freeze; just put it in the oven about thirty minutes before dinner time.  Chicken and broccoli are a good combination if you just don’t want to eat any more marinara sauce.

6. Mario Batali’s Turkey Sausage Stuffed Shells

Cheese and Turkey Sausage Stuffed in the Shells.

=>Click here for the recipe.

A lot of people don’t care for this recipe, but how it turns out really depends on how much you like the taste of turkey sausage.  Using a cheap or poorly made turkey sausage will make the dish too oily or fatty.  The excess oil will soak into the pasta shells, making them too mushy.

7. Homemade Manicotti

Homemade Manicotti with cheesy fillings.

=>Click here for the recipe.

Yes, this recipe requires you to make your own pasta, but not every recipe is meant for a weekday night.  If you’ve ever wanted to try making your own pasta this recipe is a good place to start.  The long flat noodles are easier to make than the more complicated shapes.

8. Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells

Chicken Stuffed shells with cilantro.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is a great recipe if you have leftover chicken. We made it with the remains of a rotisserie chicken we bought the night before.  

Vegetarian Options

All of these recipes don’t use meat, but several of them do require cheese or eggs.  We’ve tried to note where substitutions such as vegetarian cheese worked in the recipe, but be careful when reading the ingredient list. 

9. Pesto Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells with cheese, tomatoes and green olives.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe calls for fresh spinach and other herbs because it wants you to make your own pesto.  If you are in a time crunch, feel free to substitute store-bought pesto, or make your pesto ahead of time.  By the way, this recipe is probably one of the most budget-friendly on this list.  

Most of the ingredients for the filling can be found fairly cheaply at a local farmer’s market, but they are also some of the easiest plants to grow in a home garden.  Many homesteaders include this recipe or a variation on it in their home cookbooks.

10. Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Butternut squash stuffed in the shells.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is a very hearty recipe, so you might want to start with a small portion.  Give it a try in the fall.  If you want to increase the protein in the recipe, consider adding cooked chicken or tofu.

11. Stuffed Shells with Marinara

Stuffed Shells with Marinara in a green plate.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is another good vegetarian option that can also work if you just don’t have any meat in the freezer.  This simple recipe is also a good one for the kids to make on their own, if they undercook the pasta it will still turn out alright.   

12. Best Cheesy Stuffed Shells

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe uses several different types of cheese and ground beef.  The end result is an almost white dish that is very pretty to serve at a large event.  You may want to consider swapping the ground beef for ground turkey or tofu.

13. Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Shells

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is one of the more unusual stuffed shell recipes we’ve ever tried, but it’s definitely worth making it once if you feel adventurous.  A quick word about the onions; like most recipes it only has you cook them long enough to brown them, not really caramelize them.  Caramelizing takes a long time, but it is definitely worth the time spent.  Serve this as a main dish or a side.

14. Cheese and Pumpkin Filled Manicotti

Tomato and cheese filled Manicotti.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is a great recipe for the fall, or for anyone who always seems to have a can of pumpkin in their pantry.  Be aware that this recipe does not have much of a sweet flavor to it.  It is also very filling, making it possible to feed a lot of people from a single pan.

Seafood Variations

If you’re looking for something different or a way to use up the odds and ends from another night’s seafood dinner, these recipes can be a good choice.  There are a wide variety of flavors here, so be careful if you have picky eaters.

15. Stuffed Pasta Shell Surprise

Are you a little wary of recipes with the word surprise in them?  We are too.  The surprise in this recipe is ham and crab meat.  While it’s an unusual combination, we tried it and it actually adds a lot of flavor to the dish.  Try this recipe if you’re feeling adventurous.

16. Seafood-Stuffed Shells

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe will call for clam juice, frozen peas, and shrimp, but if you have the ingredients it’s worth trying once.  It’s good, but in our opinion any recipe that combine whipping cream and clam juice is only for the most adventurous eaters.

17. Tuna Filled Shells

Creamy tuna stuffed in the shells.

=>Click here for the recipe.

Since we’ve started down the seafood road, we might as well keep going.  Tuna-filled shells are going to be very similar to most tuna casserole recipes.  It’s a good dish if you like canned tuna, otherwise you might want to skip this one.

18. Pirate Pasta Shells

Stuffed shells in a wooden board and cherry tomatoes.

=>Click here for the recipe.

Alright, we’ll admit it; we included this recipe because we loved the name.  It’s a pretty typical stuffed shell recipe, but the chef who invented it used the recipe to sneak vegetables into her kids.  To do the same, make sure you add the optional zucchini slices.

Mexican Variations

All of the recipes in this section wouldn’t necessarily be considered a stuffed shells recipes in the strictest sense, but they have all of the necessary components to qualify.  If you have the basic ingredients to make this recipe but you’re tired of eating the same thing, one of these variations might be just the thing to get you out of your rut.

19. Chipolte Manicotti Bake

Cheesy Baked Manicotti in a plate.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe is a pretty big departure from the others on this list, but it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something a little different.  While the rest of these recipes rely on Italian flavors, this one has a more of a Mexican taste.  The base recipe is vegetarian, but you can add meat of your choice if you want to increase the protein.

20. Enchilada Stuffed Shells

If you’ve ever made enchiladas before this recipe will seem very familiar. It’s essentially enchiladas but made with pasta shells instead of tortillas. That can be pretty convenient if you don’t have tortillas on hand. 

If you have never made enchiladas before following this recipe to the letter.  If you have a favorite enchilada recipe, however, don’t be afraid to combine your favorite filling recipe with this one.

21. Best Fajita Stuffed Shells

Vegetable stuffed manicotti in a white plate.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This is one of the few recipes on this list that calls for steak.  It does take a bit longer to make than many of the other recipes on this list as well, but we think it is worth the effort.  This was definitely one of our favorite recipes.

22. Nacho Stuffed Shells

=>Click here for the recipe.

Nachos are always a crowd favorite, but they can be pretty messy.  This recipe is a good way to combine everyone’s favorite nacho toppings in a dish that’s a lot cleaner to eat than traditional nachos.  Of course, you might just like it if you want to eat nachos but you don’t have tortilla chips.  Quite honestly, when we tried it, we missed the crunch of the chips, but it’s still a good dish.

Dessert Variations

Any list of our favorite stuffed shell recipes just wouldn’t be complete without a dessert section.  While some of these take the definition of a stuffed shell pretty far, in our opinion they’re all worth making at least once.

23. Cannoli Stuffed Dessert Shells

Baked dessert shells with chocolate garnish.

=>Click here for the recipe.

This recipe uses cooked jumbo pasta shells instead of the traditional cannoli shells, but the filling is pretty much the same.  Surprisingly, the swap isn’t too noticeable.  We really thought that using pasta would make the cannoli taste bland, but this was actually a really good recipe that can be taken to a last-minute get-together or made as a weeknight dessert when you just don’t feel like baking cannoli shells.

24. Dessert Shells with Cream Filling and Berries

You can use just about any type of dessert shell for this recipe.  We’ve made our own and used the ones you can find near the strawberries at the supermarket, and both produced a good dessert.  You can decide for yourself how fancy you want to make this dessert.