Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (2024)





This Stuffed Shells Without Ricotta recipe is packed with flavor and a velvety-smooth filling. They’re made skinnier by using part-skim mozzarella and fat-free cottage cheese instead of ricotta!

This recipe serves six and costs about $13.32 to make, that’s just $2.22 per serving.

I love whipping up Italian favorites like New York Style Pizza, Sausage and Peppers Pasta, Baked Three Cheese Manicotti, Three Cheese Calzones, and Chicken and Gnocchi Soup.

Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (1)

Table of Contents

Table of contents

  • Instructions
    • Recipe Variations
  • Storage Tips
    • Recipe Tools
  • Recipe FAQ’s
    • More Pasta Main Dish Recipes

This past weekend I made this Stuffed Shells recipe without ricotta. I wanted to make one of my favorite Italian dishes but make it skinnier to accommodate the health goals I set for this year.

Let me tell you; this skinnier stuffed shells recipe is delicious! The filling is light, creamy, and it almost melts in your mouth. The entire family LOVED this recipe, and the best thing is you can make these up to 2 days ahead of time!

If you love this recipe, then you’ll want to check out my Skinnier Lasagna Roll-Ups with Mushrooms and Spinach, too!

Ingredients and Cost

Recipe cost: $13.32

Per Serving Cost: $2.22

NOTE:The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The actual cost of the stuffed shells without ricotta recipe will vary depending on what ingredients you already have.

  • 8 ounces lean ground beef – $1.55
  • 24-ounce jar pasta sauce – $1.77
  • 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells – $2.18
  • 10 saltines – $0.10
  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese – $2.28
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese – $1.30
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese – $0.99
  • 2 Tablespoons basil – $1.98
  • 2 large garlic cloves – $0.10
Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (2)


  1. Boil shells and let them dry on a towel-lined cookie sheet. Prepare the filling.
  2. Place filling in a plastic bag. Snip off the corner and fill each shell with 2 tablespoons of filling.
  3. Place half of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Nestle in the shells.
  5. Cover with remaining meat sauce.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes, then top with 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
  7. Garnish and serve!

See a complete recipe video in the recipe card below!

Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (3)

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of lean ground beef, you can use ground Italian sausage.
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, then you can use 2 teaspoons of dried basil in the filling.
  • This stuffed shells without ricotta recipe can easily be adapted for manicotti.

Storage Tips

MAKE AHEAD: Once shells are topped with the sauce, they can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap for up to 2 days. To finish: remove the plastic wrap, cover with foil, and bake until bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Proceed with the recipe.

SERVE: You can keep these at room temperature for up to 2 hours before they will need to be refrigerated.

STORE: Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

FREEZE: To freeze the stuffed shells, assemble the shells but instead of baking the shells, cover the container tightly with plastic wrap and then again with tin foil. To save yourself a little time on the night of pulling out these stuffed shells from your freezer, be sure to make yourself a note on the tin foil to remind you of the directions. That way, you do not have to go searching for the recipe. It will be right there for you!

Pro Tip

Before freezing, make the following note on the foil: “Stuffed Shells: remove plastic, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly.” Easy peasy!

These will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months. One last tip for you when recovering your stuffed shells, I highly recommend spraying the foil first as the cheese may stick if it touches the foil.

Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (4)

Recipe Tools

  • pasta pot– This one is great because you can drain the pasta in the pot.
  • large skillet
  • wooden spoon– This spoon is perfect for getting into the curved edges of the skillet.
  • 9×13-inch pan– This one had a lid that comes with it which makes storing leftovers super easy!
  • food processor– I’ve had a few food processors over the years, and this one is the best. It’s powerful, quality, and a real workhorse in my kitchen.

Recipe FAQ’s

What’s the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?

Manicotti and stuffed shells are very similar. Both kinds of pasta are stuffed, but the difference is in the particulars of how each is made.
Manicotti is made with large tubes to hold the delicious stuffing. Manicotti is typically about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.
Some people even use lasagna noodles to wrap around the stuffing. On the other hand, stuffed shells are made with, you guessed it, shells!
The stuffing in the jumbo shells is about the amount equal to the size of an egg. Both manicotti and stuffed shells are topped with a sauce after the insides have been filled with the stuffing.

Do stuffed shells freeze well?

Yes! Freezing stuffed shells is the best! It is such a delicious meal I always try to make an extra batch at the same time to have an easy meal on hand for a busy night another time. It’s like two for the price of one. One night of prep work for two nights of meals.

What goes with stuffed shells?

I like to serve this Italian Salad and this One-Hour French Bread for a complete meal. Top it off with some Cannoli and I am in Heaven!

Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (5)

More Pasta Main Dish Recipes

  • Classic Shrimp Scampi Pasta
  • Easy Pasta Primavera
  • Southwest Pasta Salad
  • Cold Italian Pasta Salad
  • Ground Beef Stroganoff
  • Italian Sausage Lasagna
  • Tomato Basil Pasta
  • Citrus Cream Pasta
  • Easy Pasta Salad
  • One-Pot Cajun Pasta
  • Caprese Pasta Bake
  • Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (6)

4.83 from 86 votes

Skinnier Stuffed Shells Recipe

Author Jillian

Recipe Cost $ $13.32

Serving Cost $ $2.22

Prep Time 25 minutes minutes

Cook Time 50 minutes minutes

Total Time 1 hour hour 15 minutes minutes

6 people

This Stuffed Shells recipe without ricotta is packed with flavor and a velvety-smooth filling.


  • pasta pot

  • large skillet

  • wooden spoon

  • 9×13-inch pan

  • food processor



  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 24-ounce jar pasta sauce


  • 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
  • 10 saltines broken into pieces
  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced


  • Move oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


  • Cook shells as per package instructions until al dente. Drain shells and transfer to kitchen towel-lined baking sheet. Reserve 24 shells, discarding any that have broken.


  • While shells cook, make meat sauce. In large skillet over medium heat add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat and add sauce. Mix until combined.

  • Spread half meat sauce into bottom or 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or any other, large 3-quart pan); set aside.


  • Pulse crackers in food processor until finely ground. Add cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and process until smooth.

  • Place mixture into quart-sized plastic bag, seal and snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe 2 tablespoons filling into each shell.


  • Nestle the filled shells, seam side up, on top of meat sauce. Evenly distribute remaining sauce over shells.

  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until bubbling around edges, 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

  • Bake until cheese is just melted, about 5 minutes.

  • Let cool for 10 minutes. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil. Serve.



Serving: 2.5shells | Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 1281mg | Potassium: 786mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 780IU | Vitamin C: 8.3mg | Calcium: 481mg | Iron: 3.3mg

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Skinnier Stuffed Shells recipe (7)

This post first appeared on Food Folks and Fun on January 11, 2016.





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