Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells is our family’s go-to favorite easy weeknight meal! We make it more times than any other meal and my kids go crazy for it every single time.

For more family favorites, check out Turkey Pesto Meatballs or Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Bake.

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There’s something about great pasta dishes that just feels like a hug from the inside, and this Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells recipe is no exception. 

It’s an easy yet elegant recipe that combines simple ingredients with a lot of flavor – creating a family-favorite meal in less than an hour.

Why You Should Make Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells

  • Easy Prep – A simple dish that’s very forgiving – meaning a no-fail experience even for beginners. So much easier than a turkey lasagna too!
  • Crowd-Pleaser – Great food for gatherings. We bring these stuffed shells to just about every potluck possible. It’s that great!
  • Make Ahead – Ideal for meal prep – make the night before, then just throw in the oven. An easy, quick meal for those busy weeknights just like our sheet-pan Italian sausage and peppers recipe.


You’ll find everything you need for this stuffed shells with Italian sausage recipe at your local grocery store. Check the recipe card for a complete list of ingredients and their amounts.

ingredients for easy stuffed shells.
  • Chicken sweet Italian sausage: Learner alternative to traditional pork sausage.
  • Jumbo pasta shells: Perfect for stuffing with our flavorful filling.
  • Marinara sauce: Store-bought sauce is fine, or try making our Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce for a delicious twist.
  • Ricotta cheese: Brings a creamy texture with a mild, sweet flavor.
  • Mozzarella cheese: Finishes our dish with a rich and gooey layer of cheese.
  • Yellow onion: Adds sweetness and more depth.
  • Italian seasoning: Gives a burst of herby flavor.
  • Red chili flakes: A little heat to cut through the richness.
  • Parsley: Some fresh chopped parsley for garnishing. 


Try these ideas to make these stuffed shells with Italian sausage and ricotta cheese on your own:

  • Marinara sauce: Use any sauce you like! How about Garlic Cream Sauce?
  • Chicken sausage: Swap it out for traditional pork sausage, hot Italian sausage, or even ground beef or pork.
  • Ricotta cheese: Full-fat cottage cheese also works. Just stick to the small curd version to keep the texture right.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Monterey Jack cheese is also great.
  • Add greens: Throwing in some fresh spinach is a great way to sneak in some veggies and add a pop of color.
  • Vegetarian friendly: Make this a vegetarian pasta dish by simply omitting the sausage – or try using diced vegetables instead.

How to Make Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

It’s simple to cook up these easy Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells! Just follow these steps, and they’ll be ready quickly. The recipe card below has all the details you need.

  • Boil the shells until almost al dente, rinse in cold water, then drain.
cooked jumbo shells in a pot
  • Brown the sausage in olive oil; add the onion, Italian seasoning, and chili flakes, then sauté until the onion is soft.
cooked italian sausage in a pan
  • Mix in the marinara sauce, simmer to thicken, then cool.
italian sausage with marinara in a pan
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and spread a cup of sauce over the bottom of a baking pan.
  • Stuff each shell with the meat sauce, place in the baking pan, and cover with the remaining sauce.
stuffed shells recipe with sausage
  • Top with dollops of ricotta and shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake until the cheese melts, then garnish with parsley to serve.
stuffed shells with meat

Time-Saving Shortcuts

Our Italian sausage baked shells are already quick to make, but here’s how you can save even more time:

  • Cheese hack: Using pre-shredded mozzarella cheese saves you the hassle of grating cheese yourself. Quick and convenient!
  • Spread out: A thinner layer of shells in a larger pan cooks quicker than a thick, stuffed casserole.
  • Quick cleanup: Line your baking dish with parchment paper for an easy cleanup. Less time scrubbing, more time enjoying!

Expert Tips

Check out these expert tips to make your stuffed shells with sausage even better:

  • Crispy finish: A quick broil for 1-2 minutes at the end will give the cheese a delicious golden brown color. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. 
  • Pack it right: Baking times can vary with how snugly the shells are packed. If it’s packed to the brim, aim for 30-40 minutes. 
  • Pasta perfect: To avoid mushy shells, cook them just under al dente. Rinse with cool water after draining to stop them cooking further – they need to be sturdy for stuffing.
  • Extra shells: Always boil a few extra shells. You’ll have spares in case you tear any. 

How to Store

Keep your Italian stuffed shells tasting as fresh as the day you made them with these storage tips:

  • Fridge: Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freezer:
    • For best results, freeze before baking. Use an airtight container and include the sauce. They’ll last 3-4 months.
    • Can also freeze in individual servings for a quick meal anytime – use freezer bags.
  • Reheat:
    • These shells reheat wonderfully. In the oven, cover with foil and bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes, longer if from frozen. 
    • For individual portions, defrost overnight in the fridge first. Heat on a microwave-safe plate for about 90 seconds, stirring halfway through.
stuffed sausage stuffed shells in a white baking dish.

What Goes with Stuffed Shells?

close up stuffed pasta shells with cheese and sausage.

Recipe FAQs

Why are my shells falling apart?

Your shells may fall apart if they’re overcooked or handled too much while filling. Try to cook them just shy of al dente and handle them carefully to keep them in one piece.

Can I use a different type of pasta instead of jumbo shells?

Yes, you can use other types of pasta, like manicotti or even large rigatoni if you can’t find jumbo shells. You don’t have to stuff the pasta – you can just layer the meat underneath. 

How many jumbo shells are in a 16 oz box?

A 16 oz box usually has around 46 jumbo shells, though this varies by brand. It’s always a good idea to count and have a few extras for backup.

Is there a gluten-free option for the pasta shells in this recipe?

Yes, you’ll be glad to know that many brands offer gluten-free jumbo shells. They might be tricky to find at your local stores, so it’s best to order these gluten-free pasta shells online.

If you try Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells, please leave a star rating and a comment letting us know how you like the recipe.

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stuffed pasta shells with marinara and cheese in a baking dish.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian


Ultra saucy stuffed shells with Italian chicken sausage, marinara, ricotta, and cheese. This is a family-favorite recipe that everyone loves!


Units Scale
  • 8 oz. dry jumbo shells, about 26-28 shells
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. chicken Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1 (32 oz.) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper


  1. Cook shells in salted water according to package directions until pliable but just shy of al dente, about 8-10 minutes, stirring often so they don’t stick to the pot. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside over a colander to drain further.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook sausage until browned and crumbled, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Stir in onions, Italian seasoning, and red chili flakes. Cook until the onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes.

  4. Add marinara sauce. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, uncovered, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce over the bottom of the 9 X 13 baking pan. Fill each shell with a heaping spoonful (about 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons) of the meat sauce and place it snuggly in the pan. Spoon any remaining meat sauce around the shells.
  7. Top with dollops of ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley before serving.


  • Shells: Cook 2-3 extra shells just in case some rip and break apart.
  • Sausage: This recipe can also be made with pork sausage.
  • Leftovers: Leftover shells will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze for several months.


  • Serving Size: 4-5 stuffed shells
  • Calories: 485
  • Sugar: 9.9 g
  • Sodium: 934.3 mg
  • Fat: 19.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 44.4 g
  • Protein: 34 g
  • Cholesterol: 93.3 mg

Original recipe published February 2021 but since been updated with new information.