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Stuffed Pasta Shells

Scott Phillips

Servings: 12 to 16

Forget what you know about baked shells: The creamy texture of homemade ricotta makes all the difference. The multiple elements, including a take on Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce, can be made ahead.


For the tomato sauce

  • 1 28-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • Pinch granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt

For the besciamella sauce

  • 2-1/2 oz. (5 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1 3/8 oz. (5 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt

For the filling

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups homemade ricotta (drained for 30 minutes to 2 hours) or good quality purchased
  • 8 oz. (2 cups) coarsely grated fresh mozzarella; more for topping (optional)
  • 4 oz. prosciutto cotto, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 1-1/4 oz. (1-1/4 cups) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 oz. (3/4 cup) finely grated pecorino romano
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. dried jumbo pasta shells

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 430
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 220
  • Fat (g): 24
  • Saturated Fat (g): 14
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 7
  • Cholesterol (mg): 95
  • Sodium (mg): 890
  • Carbohydrates (g): 35
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 17


Make the tomato sauce

  • Put the tomatoes and their juice in a 3-quart saucepan and crush the tomatoes to bite-size pieces. Add the butter, onion, sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer over medium-low heat until the thickened slightly, about 45 minutes. Discard the onion. Season to taste with salt.

Make the besciamella sauce

  • In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, until a pale tan color, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, then add the bay leaf, white pepper, nutmeg, and 2 tsp. salt. Whisking frequently, bring to a boil, and then cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool.

Fill and bake

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Have ready a large bowl of ice water, a lightly oiled large rimmed baking sheet, and two 9×13-inch baking dishes. (Alternatively, have ready individual baking dishes.)
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, mozzarella, prosciutto, 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano, 1/4 cup of the pecorino, the parsley, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
  • Boil the shells according to package directions until just al dente. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Spread 3/4 cup of the besciamella in the bottom of each baking dish (or divide it among individual dishes). Spoon or pipe 1 heaping Tbs. of the filling into each shell and arrange the shells, filling side up and close together, in the dishes. Pour the remaining besciamella over the shells, then top with the tomato sauce, which may not cover completely. Top with the remaining Parmigiano and pecorino, and with more grated mozzarella, if using. Bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauces can be made 2 days ahead; cover and refrigerate.

The shells can be stuffed, coated with the sauce, and frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before topping with cheese and baking.


Rate or Review

Reviews (10 reviews)

  • Dheydt | 02/21/2020

    This is soooooo delicious and I love that it can be frozen. I didn’t make the ricotta ..........maybe next time.

  • Bigdaddy316 | 04/22/2017

    I used manicotti instead of shells, worked out great. I expected it to be bland with no herbs in the tomato sauce but my family couldn't get enough of this, even my picky son. Will make again.

  • User avater
    callmeafoodie | 02/14/2017

    I used my own recipe for the tomato sauce (I keep jars in the freezer) but the rest was as per the recipe including making the ricotta from scratch for the first time. The stuffed shells were amazing and even better as left overs !!

  • unclemorti | 12/13/2015

    Its great tasting. I loved the use of the addition of the protein. I added spinach.

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