Stuffed pasta shells are a very easy yet very delicious and impressive main course. They are stuffed with sautèed mushrooms, ham, fresh Ricotta, and melted Mozzarella cheese. Then covered with a layer of white sauce and baked in the oven until they get a golden-brown crust which is to die for. A fantastic weekend meal for the whole family.
I love stuffed pasta, in all its shapes and forms. From Ravioli to Cannelloni. Stuffed Shells, though, are the easiest to make because you don't need to make fresh pasta from scratch and you don't need any special tools like cutters or piping bags. All you need is a baking dish and a spoon.
- Shells. Shells are my favorite pasta shape to stuff because of their cute shape. But you can also stuff other types of pasta, like Manicotti, or Paccheri.
- Béchamel sauce. Béchamel or white sauce is essential in all baked pasta dishes. It glues and cooks the pasta uniformly, leaving you with perfectly cooked and saucy pasta. You can easily make it yourself (see recipe card) or buy it jarred.
- Ricotta. Ricotta cheese makes any pasta filling creamy and delicious. I do not recommend substituting it with any other cheese.
- Mushrooms. I love to use Cremini mushrooms for this kind of stuffing, but you can also use wild mushrooms, Porcini, or any other mushroom type you like.
- Ham. Thinly sliced cooked ham has the best flavor in my opinion. But you can also substitute it with cubed ham, or other cold meats like turkey, bacon, and so on.
Start by making the Béchamel sauce with butter, flour, and milk, then set it aside to cool down.
Chop the mushrooms and sautèe them in olive oil with two garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Set them as well aside to cool down.
In a bowl prepare the filling with ricotta cheese, chopped ham, mushrooms, and half of the mozzarella cheese.
Cook the pasta halfway and cool it down. Stuff the shells with the mushroom and ham ricotta filling.
Spread a thin layer of béchamel sauce on the bottom of a terracotta baking dish, then make a layer of stuffed shells. If you need to make a second layer, spread some béchamel on top before adding more shells.
Cover the whole dish with the remaining béchamel sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese.
Bake in the preheated oven at 425°F/220°C for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
How to cook Stuffed Pasta
The most important thing in baked pasta is not to overcook or undercook the pasta. Nobody wants crunchy pasta or melt-in-your-mouth pasta. The key is to pre-cook the pasta just enough so that it can finish cooking in the oven and still end up with the perfect al dente texture.
The only pasta that I add raw in the oven, are Lasagne and Cannelloni. The reason is that the pasta is covered by plenty of sauce and it will cook in the oven for a longer time, which is enough to cook pasta perfectly.
But for baked pasta dishes, I usually pre-cook the pasta for 4-5 minutes less than the package directions and then let it finish in the oven. All the ingredients are already cooked so it won't stay long in the oven, just enough to get the beautiful golden crust.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven to get the crunchy crust again.
You can also either freeze raw portions or baked leftovers. Let it cool completely, then move it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze it for up to 3 months. If you froze raw portions, let them thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then follow the baking directions from this recipe. If you have frozen baked leftovers, let them thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes. If they are too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of milk before reheating.
FAQ & Tips
Due to the dimension of the pasta, plus all the stuffing and sauce, 4-5 shells are enough for a good serving. If you plan to serve them accompanied by another course, like salad or meat, then 2-3 are probably enough.
Yes of course. Like all pasta dishes, you can freeze them with no issues. You can either freeze raw portions or baked leftovers. Let it cool completely, then move it to a freezer-friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months.
If you froze raw portions, let them thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then follow the baking directions from this recipe. If you have frozen baked leftovers, let them thaw completely in the fridge overnight, then reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes. If they are too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of milk before reheating.
You can find step-by-step photos, and tips in the post above.
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Mushroom and Ham Stuffed Shells
- 7 oz Jumbo Shells Pasta
- 9 oz Cremini Mushrooms
- 3.5 oz Ham, sliced or cubed
- 1 Mozzarella
- 2 Garlic cloves
- ¼ cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
- ½ cup Ricotta cheese, fresh
- Black Pepper
For 1 ½ cup Béchamel Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 2 tablespoon Flour
- 2 cups Milk, room temperature
- Black Pepper
Make the Béchamel sauce
- If you use pre-made white sauce, skip to step 4. In a large pan at medium heat, melt the butter, then add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it becomes a thick paste (roux).
- Add 2 cups of room temperature or cold milk to the pan and mix well until the roux is dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until it’s thick enough to coat the wooden spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool down.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
- Chop the mushrooms or give them a pulse in a food processor, add them in a large pan drizzled with olive oil and add the 2 peeled and halved garlic cloves.
- Sauté the mushrooms until they start to brown, then season with salt and pepper. Remove the garlic cloves and set the mushrooms aside to cool.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and toss the jumbo shells. Cook for 4-5 minutes less than the cooking time recommended on the package.
- In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, with the roughly chopped ham, the mushrooms and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Season again to taste if needed.
- Drain the shells and wash them under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down.
- Spread a layer of white sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, then with a spoon, stuff each shells with the ricotta filling and arrange them in the baking dish.
- If you need to make multiple layers of shells, cover the top with a bit of white sauce before you start adding the second layer of pasta.
- Finally, add some pieces of the remaining mozzarella on top and cover with the remaining white sauce with an even layer. Sprinkle the grated Parmigiano cheese all over the top.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.