Shrimp Stuffed Shells filled with cream cheese and shrimp filling then covered in pasta sauce! These jumbo stuffed pasta shells are so easy to make and are super creamy, cheesy, and the perfect make-ahead dish to feed large crowds and kids! It’s a pasta recipe everyone will love, loaded with Italian flavors!
Need pasta dinner ideas? Pasta recipes are the best, they are so simple to make from all types of pasta! We love this Angel Hair Pasta (one-pot pasta), Olive Garden Penne Pasta (can use ziti), and Shrimp Alfredo Pasta! All those pasta dishes are incredible including this stuffed shells recipe!
What Are Stuffed Shells?
Stuffed Shells is basically a shell pasta (Jumbo Stuffed Shells) filled with a creamy filling and covered in an Italian sauce. The cream cheese shrimp filling, Italian cheese, and pasta sauce in this stuffed shells recipe is something like a baked lasagna dish from a popular Italian restaurant only way better! The shell shape keeps the gooey cheese filling inside and this pasta bake can be made in 2 ways, like a shrimp Alfredo pasta dish with Alfredo sauce (white sauce) or a marinara pasta sauce. My favorite is the marinara variation since you get the best of both sauces, but really both are amazing! We like pasta shells to enclose the filling but different Pasta types, or noodles will work here including manicotti!
My sister loves our Shrimp Dip and all of us sisters can agree it can be eaten with a spoon (it’s that good!) It’s loaded with garlic and cream cheese and is so flavorful! So when she suggested adding it to pasta shells we knew it was going to be amazing! I wanted to test the filling out like the classic stuffed shells (using marinara sauce), and with an alfredo sauce. If you are a seafood pasta fan you need to go with the alfredo shrimp pasta. The marinara sauce is more traditional Italian pasta.
Stuffed Shells Recipe 2 Ways:
Can’t decide on how to make this stuffed pasta shells recipe? Here is the Alfredo variation that you can simply swap out for the marinara sauce! I like to reserve about 1 cup of the prepared Alfredo sauce down the top of the casserole (after I sprinkle on the cheese) and garnish with cooked shrimp, 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes, and dried parsley. It makes a beautiful seafood presentation.
Ingredients for Stuffed Shells:
For stuffed shells, you will need jarred pasta sauce. To bring out the seafood flavor use alfredo sauce or marinara sauce for a traditional Italian flavor. We have a homemade pasta sauce for alfredo and a recipe for marinara. This stuffed shell recipe works for either sauce selection. Here is everything needed;
- Pasta Shells- use pocket types of pasta to enclose the filling. Manicotti or Cannelloni are large-sized Pastas perfect for stuffing!
- Stuffed Shells Filling, is a creamy mixture of cream cheese, heavy cream, Italian seasoning, garlic, parmesan cheese, cooked shrimp, and tomato.
- Pasta Sauce- like alfredo or traditional seasoned tomato sauce can be used for these stuffed jumbo shells.
How To Make Stuffed Shells:
How to make pasta stuffed with shrimp? This recipe for stuffed shells is a simple pasta recipe with quick prep. As the pasta is cooking you can make the filling on the stovetop then assemble the recipe in a baking dish and bake it in the oven. This filling sets firm once it cools making it the perfect make-ahead dish as it can sit in the fridge before cooking.
- Cook Jumbo pasta shells in boiling water for 9 minutes or until al dente. To cook fresh pasta you will need to boil it for about 3-5 minutes. Rinse cooked pasta with cold water and toss with 2 Tbsp of oil to prevent it from sticking. Set it aside.
- In a non-stick skillet, melt the cream cheese and mayo in the heavy cream and olive oil.
- Add the spices, fresh garlic, cheese, and shrimp. Whisk well then remove from the heat and fold in 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes. Transfer to a bowl.
- Prep the pan by pouring half of the sauce into a 13×9 baking dish. Set aside.
- Fill each pasta shell with 1 heaping tablespoon of the shrimp mixture. Arrange into the prepared pan. Reserve 3/4 cup of shrimp filling for the topping.
- Ladle the centers of the shells with the remaining pasta sauce.
- Top with shredded mozzarella or any Italian-style cheese.
- Top and garnish with diced tomatoes and the reserved shrimp filling. (You can also reserve a handful of cooked shrimp for the top.)
- Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes.
Baking Tip: how long to bake stuffed shells? Jumbo stuffed shells will take longer to cook in the oven if refrigerated beforehand. I do cover stuffed shells when baking so they don’t dry out. Since the filling and shells are cooked, they will only need to bake until the cheeses melt and the sauce is bubbling.
Can You Make Stuffed Shells Ahead of Time?
You can refrigerate stuffed shells before cooking. Simply prep the stuffed shells and layer them as instructed, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Can you freeze stuffed shells? You can freeze unbaked stuffed pasta shells for up to 3 months double-wrapped in aluminum foil. Thaw the frozen stuffed shells in the fridge the night before baking.
To Reheat Stuffed Shells: to cook frozen stuffed shells, simply bake thawed shells for 45-55 minutes at 350°F covered in foil, until the cheeses melt. Leftovers after baking are best reheated in a baking dish covered with foil until hot (about 10-15 minutes), or just microwave.
Stuffed Shells Variations:
Craving something different from traditional stuffed jumbo shells? Ricotta stuffed shells aren’t the only way to enjoy stuffed shells! You can change up the stuffed shells with meat sauce, or Italian sausage, or change up the cheeses to make it your own. Here are some stuffed shell recipes for ideas.
- Taco stuffed shells- omit the shrimp and fry 1 pound of ground beef with a packet of taco seasoning. Layer with Mexican cheese.
- Stuffed Shells with Spinach- add a 16 oz package of thawed and squeezed frozen spinach to the filling mixture and omit the shrimp.
- Chicken Stuffed shells- substitute 16 oz of grilled chicken for the shrimp!
- Cheese stuffed shells- leave out the shrimp to make a vegetarian dish!
- Alfredo stuffed shells- use your favorite Alfredo sauce for layering the stuffed shells.
- Crab stuffed- swap out the shrimp meat with your favorite seafood to make stuffed crab shells!
What To Serve with Stuffed Shells?
What goes? Think of this as a lasagna dish, anything you’d eat with baked stuffed shells covered in a tomato sauce can be eaten with the following sides:
- Any green leaf salad like this zesty Greek Salad. A vinaigrette-based dressing is a good choice!
- Garlic-seasoned breadsticks like Olive garden
- Steamed broccoli or green vegetables like green beans
- Baked Salmon or Ranch fish, we also love this shrimp scampi Fritta appetizer with pasta!
- Hot soup like Pasta Fagioli Soup or Zuppa Toscana
Where To Buy Jumbo Pasta Shells?
Walmart usually carries the Barilla pasta in “Jumbo shells.” You can also buy 12oz jumbo pasta shells at Amazon or target. If you cannot find the large pasta shells, simply substitute for jumbo pasta shells with Manicotti or Cannelloni. Some grocery stores might have gluten-free pasta shells as a healthy pasta option.
How Many Jumbo Pasta Shells in A 12oz Box?
There are about 46-48 shells in a 12 oz box of Jumbo pasta shells. About 2 stuffed shells make a good adult serving. It’s a good idea to calculate how many stuffed shells to make per person with this tip. Typically, half a box of jumbo shells makes enough for a 13×9 baking pan, which is about 21-24 large shells.
Tips for Stuffed Shells:
- Pat dry the cooked shrimp with paper towels so, the white sauce doesn’t get runny. Adding wet shrimp to the filling will make a runny sauce and won’t stay in well.
- Remove the tails from the shrimp when adding them to the sauce.
- Gently fold half of the diced tomatoes into the filling so the sauce doesn’t turn pink. I like to squeeze any excess liquid from the tomatoes before adding them to the filling. Then I reserve the other half for the garnish.
- Chill the filling in the fridge for 30 minutes before stuffing, it will thicken and be easier to fill shells.
- Reserve 3/4 cup of filling for garnishing over the shredded cheese before baking. This adds more flavor to the sauce and makes a prettier presentation! I like to add 1/2 cup of freshly cut diced tomatoes and dried parsley over the top before serving.
- Allow the stuffed shells to sit 10 minutes before serving, this sets them in the sauce.
- Look for brown rice or whole pasta shells for whole-grain pasta options.
- Don’t overcook pasta shells for stuffing, they will break apart and get mushy when baking. You’ll want pasta boiled to an al dente yet firm consistency.
- You can freeze this Jumbo pasta shells recipe! Either flash freeze, the stuffed shells before transferring them to a freezer bag or freeze them assembled in a tomato sauce, like frozen lasagna.
- Cut the recipe in half and bake in an 8×8 pan for fewer servings.
- Fill and make ahead, days in advance for a quick dinner. Cooked and stuffed pasta shells can keep in the fridge for 3 days before baking.
- Shrimp stuffed shells can be swapped out with chicken, sausage, crab, or spinach.
- Bake this stuffed pasta shells recipe covered and then uncovered for a cheese crust. We like to bake this dish at 350°F but you can go up to 400°F for a quicker meal.
More Pasta Recipes To Make:
- Shrimp Alfredo (one of my favorite shrimp pasta recipes)
- Creamy Parmesan Garlic Angel Hair Pasta (add some protein to make one-of-a-kind chicken pasta recipes!)
- Baked Feta Pasta
- Mac and Cheese (made from small pasta shells)
- Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo
- 1 13x9 baking dish (use disposable if freezing)
- 1 5-quart pot (boiling pasta shells)
- 1 colander (to drain cooked pasta)
- 1 10-inch skillet (non-stick)
- 21 Jumbo pasta shells (about 6oz)
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese**
- 1 tomato (diced and divided)
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 Tbsp mayo
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup white cheddar cheese (shredded)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 cups cooked shrimp (tails removed)
- Cook the pasta: according to the box instructions, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick. Drain and rinse with cold water, then toss with 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent them from sticking. Set aside.
- Make the filling: melt the cream cheese in cream, mayo, and olive oil in a non-stick skillet over low heat until smooth.
- Whisk in the remaining ingredients (except tomatoes) and gently fold in half of the diced tomatoes, transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Pour half of the marinara sauce onto the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Stuff each shell with a heaping tablespoon of the filling and arrange the shells in a single layer over the marinara sauce.
- Ladle the remaining marinara sauce down the center of each row. Top with mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes in a preheated 350°F until bubbly. Uncover and broil for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with the remaining diced tomatoes and dried parsley. Allow the casserole to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
- Alfredo Sauce Variation: I mixed together 15 oz of jarred Alfredo sauce, 4 slices of white American cheese (grated), 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, and 3/4 cup of the reserved shrimp filling. Layer shells with 1/2 of the Alfredo sauce, shells, shredded cheese, and the remaining sauce. Garnish with tomatoes, additional shrimp, and dried parsley. Bake as directed.