These Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells are absolutely delicious and easy to make. The oven-baked giant pasta shells are stuffed with a three-cheese filling and topped with a creamy alfredo sauce and breadcrumbs. It's the perfect dinner to WOW your guests in under 40 minutes.
If you have extra time, I recommend to made this recipe with my homemade Italian marinara recipe sauce is heavenly delicious.
⭐ Why this recipe works
Invite your guests to the Olive Garden in the comfort of your home with this creamy pasta recipe. The Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells recipe is the perfect way to give your guests a restaurant-quality feeling with this rich and satisfying dinner.
It takes less than 40 minutes to make from start to finish and what's more, is that you don't even have to be a chef to make it. It's easy for any home cook to make this with our easy-to-follow copycat recipe and helpful cooking tips.
The delicious flavor of homemade creamy alfredo sauce, chewy pasta shells, marinara sauce, melty cheese, garlic, and herbs is simply an irresistible combination that will have your guests licking their plates and asking for seconds!
If you love creamy Italian pasta dishes with lots of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese, then you're going to be in heaven with giant stuffed cheese shells! Also check my delicious stuffed shells with meat and stuffed pork chops recipe for meaty option and my four cheese manicotti recipe.
Serve it as a hearty meal that is perfect for any occasion, from a casual lunch with friends to an elegant dinner party or as a filling family dinner on a busy weeknight. For busy weekdays check out my collection of best pasta recipes with few ingredients.
🍽 Key Ingredients
This delicious, rich and satisfying Olive Garden recipe is a mixture of cheese, marinara sauce, and jumbo pasta shells, which you can find in your local grocery store.
Jumbo pasta shells - Jumbo shells can be found in most grocery stores. The seashell-shaped pasta work great in this recipe as the sauce sits inside the shells and is slightly thicker than usual, so they have a nice chewy texture.
Cheese - An Italian cheese blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese gives the stuffing a nice creaminess and depth of flavor.
Herbs - Dried basil and oregano combination gives the stuffing a subtle herby flavor.
Garlic - Minced garlic is added to both the stuffing and the alfredo sauce.
Marinara - Use a jar of your favorite marinara sauce to top the shells with before they are baked. I used my homemade italian marinara sauce recipe.
Breadcrumbs - The breadcrumbs are used to top the shells and give them a nice crispy flavor and texture.
Milk and butter - Butter and half & half milk are used in the alfredo sauce to give it a rich and creamy texture.
Alfredo Sauce - The alfredo sauce is a combination of richness and creaminess loaded with Italian cheeses of mozzarella and parmesan cheese with a hint of garlic flavor.
Since there is a lot of cheese in this recipe, it is necessary to combine the right flavors. If you don't have ricotta, mozzarella, or Parmesan cheese, you can substitute:
- The ricotta cheese for cottage cheese without changing the flavor of the dish.
- I don't recommend using just mozzarella cheese if that's all you have, as it can make the filling very dense and flavorless, so use a variety such as provolone, cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere.
- If you don't have any Parmesan cheese, you can use Asiago, Pecorino, or Romano cheese.
If you don't have any breadcrumbs, you can use crushed crackers or panko breadcrumbs as an equal substitute.
Jumbo pasta shells
If you can't find jumbo shells, you can use any type of large pasta such as rigatoni, ziti, lasagna noodles, or cannelloni.
🔪 How to make
This giant cheese stuffed shells recipe is easy to make and takes less than 40 minutes using my step-by-step instructions. You'll need just a few ingredients to make these cheesy stuffed shells and a baking dish to cook them in.
- Finely mince the garlic cloves.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
Boil a pan of water and cook the pasta shells for 12 minutes until al dente (check the package instructions for the recommended time). Drain and rinse the pasta under cold running water once the pasta is cooked.
Mix the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese with the oregano, basil, and minced garlic in a medium bowl.
Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and pour 1 cup of the readymade marinara sauce into it.
Stuff each jumbo pasta shell with 2 spoons of cheese filling and place them on top of the marinara sauce. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Next, melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a hot skillet over medium heat with the breadcrumbs for 1-2 minutes until slightly toasted, then transfer to a bowl.
Use the same skillet, make the creamy alfredo sauce with melted butter and garlic, cooking for 1 minute until fragrant, then whisk in the half and half milk.
Stir in the remaining Parmesan( leave extra for topping) and Mozzarella cheese until completely melted, and the sauce has a silky smooth texture.
Remove the pasta shells stuffed with cheese from the oven, remove the aluminum foil, and pour just enough alfredo sauce to cover the cooked shells.
Spoon over some more marinara pasta sauce and finish with the toasted breadcrumbs and extra Parmesan cheese.
Turn the oven to broil and place the dish back in, cooking for 2 -3 minutes until the cheese and breadcrumbs become golden brown.
Remove the giant stuffed cheese shells from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with some fresh basil leaves or chopped fresh parsley.
💭 Cooking tips
The alfredo sauce
If you want a thinner sauce, add more milk. If you want a thicker sauce, add less milk.
Overcooking the pasta shells
Try not to let the pasta shells cook for too long, as they tend to break easier when stuffing them with the cheese filling. I always cook them 2 minutes less than the package instructions so that they are still firm enough to fill without breaking them.
Cooling the pasta
This is vitally important to stop the cooking process. For best results, make an ice bath in a saucepan to cool down the pasta shells instantly.
Filling the shells
There are two easy ways to fill the shells. One is with a spoon (this can cause one or two shells to break if you're not careful), and the other is to pour the mixture into a piping bag (or ziplock bag) and cut off the end to squeeze the ricotta cheese filling into the shells.
📖 Recipe variations
If you want to make some adjustments to the giant cheese stuffed shells recipe, here are a few ideas:
Cheesy beef stuffed shells
Some great additions to pasta dishes include Italian sausage, ground beef, ground chicken, or chorizo. Cook the meat first, mix it with the marinara sauce, and then layer the meat sauce in the baking dish as instructed in the "How to make section". Check out my stuffed shells recipe with meat for more details.
If you want to sneak some veggies into this dish, then add them to the cheese filling. Half a cup of finely chopped broccoli, kale, or spinach would all work great in this dish. You can even place halved cherry tomatoes around the pasta shells.
Give it some heat
If you like your food with a bit of a kick, then add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or chili powder to the alfredo sauce or stuff the shells with a spicy cheese filling.
If you are looking to cook using another type of pasta; then check out my list of best gemelli pasta recipes.
🥗 What to serve with
These easy giant cheese stuffed shells are great on their own, or you can serve them with some garlic bread, a green salad, or soup for a complete meal. Give these easy, comforting recipes a try to pair with your stuffed shells.
Soups and pasta are a classic combination in Italy, as two comforting dishes are better than one! This roasted tomato soup is just perfect for this ultimate cheese pasta shells recipe and easy to make too!
A green salad is a classic side for pasta dishes in Italy. A simple arugula salad is perfect for this Olive Garden pasta recipe or this 10-minute tomato mozzarella salad with a delicious balsamic dressing.
The perfect side dish to any Italian pasta recipe is garlic bread. It's simple, and all you need to do is cut a baguette in half, spread on some garlic butter, and broil for a few minutes into crispy.
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make giant cheese stuffed shells in advance?
You can make these stuffed pasta shells ahead of time, but I would not recommend baking them until you are ready to serve. Assemble the dish up to the point of baking, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. When you're ready to serve, bake as instructed.
Can you freeze giant cheese stuffed shells?
Yes, you can freeze them unbaked but not baked. Freeze the unbaked cheese-stuffed pasta shells for up to 2 months. Once you've assembled the dish, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the freezer.
🧊 Storing and ♨️ reheating
Giant cheese stuffed shells are best eaten fresh, but if you have any leftovers, they can be refrigerated and eaten cold or reheated.
Fridge - Transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer - I don't recommend freezing cooked pasta shells as they can become mushy when thawed and reheated.
Reheating - Reheat the pasta shells in a baking dish covered with foil in a 350 ˚F oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat them in the microwave for 1 -2 minutes on medium power.
🍳 Related Pasta Recipes
If you like my giant cheese stuffed shells recipe then you must try one my delicious pasta recipe full of comforting ingredients. Try these fantastic comfort meals in your next family or friends gathering. Including my easy to make chicken and shrimp carbonara olive garden and chicken marsala olive garden recipe.
👪 Serving size
This giant cheese stuffed shells recipe makes around 16 large cheese stuffed pasta shells, so it's perfect for feeding a family of 3 or 4. If you're looking to feed a larger crowd, you can double the recipe or make a smaller batch by halving it.
This Olive garden pasta specialty dish is perfect for a family dinner or a party. It is simple to make and can be easily modified to suit your taste. I am sure you and your guests will love them as much as I do after tasting this copycat recipe, so please leave a comment below with your thoughts!
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
Try one of my comfort dinner recipes for your next family meal! And if you have any questions, I'm here to help!
Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells (Olive Garden Copycat Recipe)
- 16 jumbo shells
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella/provolone mixture - shredded
- 1 cup parmesan - grated
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
- 15 oz marinara
- ¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon butter
for the sauce
- 6 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
- ¾ cup half and half
- 1 cup parmesan - grated
- ¼ cup mozzarella/provolone mix - shredded
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
- Boil a pan of water and cook the pasta shells for 12 minutes until al dente (check the package instructions for the recommended time).
- Drain and rinse the pasta under cold running water once the pasta is cooked.
- Mix the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese with the oregano, basil, and minced garlic in a medium bowl.
- Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and pour 1 cup of the readymade marinara sauce into it.
- Stuff each jumbo pasta shell with 2 spoons of cheese filling and place them on top of the marinara sauce.
- Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Next, melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a hot skillet over medium heat with the breadcrumbs for 1-2 minutes until slightly toasted, then transfer to a bowl.
- Use the same skillet, make the creamy alfredo sauce with melted butter and garlic, cooking for 1 minute until fragrant, then whisk in the half and half milk.
- Stir in the remaining Parmesan( leave extra for topping) and Mozzarella cheese until completely melted, and the sauce has a silky smooth texture.
- Remove the pasta shells stuffed with cheese from the oven, remove the aluminum foil, and pour just enough alfredo sauce to cover the cooked shells.
- Spoon over some more marinara pasta sauce and finish with the toasted breadcrumbs and extra Parmesan cheese.
- Turn the oven to broil and place the dish back in, cooking for 2 -3 minutes until the cheese and breadcrumbs become golden brown.
- Remove the giant stuffed cheese shells from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving with some fresh basil leaves or chopped fresh parsley.