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Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells. Dinner = planned.

Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest

So I’ve been sitting here, on my kitchen floor, right up against the stove (because it’s so warm and cozy), staring at my computer screen for the last twenty minutes just kind of twiddling my thumbs about how to start this post and what exactly to chat with you all about. Sure, I want to tell you guys all about these delicious, cheese filled pasta shells, but it’s just been one of those long days and my brain feels fried. There’s also so much I have to share outside of this recipe that I am not even sure where to begin.

Basically what I am trying to say is that my thought process is all over the place. I have a ton to say, but I’m not sure how to write down the proper words to express my thoughts. Does that make any sense? Probably not, but you sort of get it, right?

Good news is that I’ve now gotten the hardest part about writing the day’s post done…I started it!

Whoop! Whoop!

Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest

Alright, so now that I explained where my head is at, I’m feeling like I can dive into the post for real and tell you guys about these cheese filled pasta shells!

Believe it or not, this is my first jumbo pasta shell recipe. For the longest time, I had two boxes of jumbo pasta shells sitting on my pantry shelves, but every time I’d go to use them, the long cut pasta (angel hair, spaghetti, bucatini) would stare me down, and somehow seem like a better fit for whatever recipe I was creating. To be fair, I am a long cut pasta person all the way. It’s just what I know and love. But, there is a time and place for shells…especially shells that are filled with cheese!

This past week I finally bit the bullet and decided to make stuffed shells. I got home from hiking one day and was just in the mood to create a baked pasta dish. When I saw the shells, I knew cheese filled shells were in my future. I had a ton of ricotta, fresh basil, and a pound of spicy Italian sausage in my fridge, so the recipe was pretty much set.

I made a quick ragu style sauce with the spicy sausage, then stirred together some homemade basil pesto with a container of ricotta, stuffed it all inside my jumbo pasta shells, and put it all together. Then into the oven it went (with a little more cheese on top…of course), and thirty minutes later, I had this yummy dinner ready to go.

And guys? It. Is. GOOD!

Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest

Think of this dish kind of like a manicotti, but in shell form, and probably a little easier to make than manicotti too. For the sauce, I love using a spicy sausage to add flavor without having to cook the sauce all day long. I also use a little vodka in the sauce to give it an extra kick. Plus, I just love all vodka style Italian sauces.

The ricotta filling though? That’s the best part. If you guys haven’t noticed, I love basil pesto, so anytime I have extra basil on hand, I make pesto and then use the pesto in all kinds of recipes (hello to this lobster with polenta and pesto and this pesto pasta bolognese). It’s one of my favorite ingredients.

I stirred the pesto into the ricotta to add plenty of basil flavor. It’s seriously the best, and I love the pesto cheese combo with the spicy red sauce.

Perfect dinner to entertain with this holiday season. You can prepare the dish in advance, keep it fully assembled in the fridge, and then bake before serving. Love dishes like this for holiday entertaining…they make life so easy!

Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest

Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories Per Serving: 1163 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.



  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the sausage and brown all over, about 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes, vodka, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
    3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions.
    4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, provolone, and 1/2 cup pesto. Transfer the mix to a gallon size zip top bag and snip about a 1/2 inch off of one corner of the bag. 
    5. To assemble, spoon 3/4 of the red sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Working with one pasta shell at a time, pipe about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into each shell, placing the filled shell into the baking dish as you go. Spoon the remaining red sauce over top of the shells and then drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup pesto evenly over everything. Add the mozzarella. 
    6. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned on top. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh basil. Enjoy!
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Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells | @hbharvest

PS. the red and green color combo? Yes, I did that on purpose, and yes, I love it…so festive!

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    1. Hi Christine,
      Wonderful!!🍀 I love to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks so much for trying it out:)

    1. Hey Morgan,
      Wonderful!! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed and truly appreciate you making it! Have a great weekend! 🍁🍂

  1. 5 stars
    So amazingly delicious and fairly easy to put together. Whole family loved it and the leftovers will probably be even tastier!

    1. Hey Gina,
      Happy Monday! Thanks a lot for trying this recipe out, I am so excited to hear that it was a hit! xx

  2. 5 stars
    I made this last night in London, England. There was a point when I was stuffing individual pasta shells when I thought, am I mad, this is just for a Thursday family dinner! But it wasn’t too tricksy really, and the results were more than worth it. Totally delicious. My son says it’s yet another ‘best thing you’ve ever made’ recipe, and recently most of those come from your website, and best of all they’re really simple to put together (individual shell stuffing aside). So thankful I stumbled across your site.

  3. This recipe turned out amazing! I loved the spicy red sauce and will definitely use it in other pasta dishes too.

    1. Hey Caroline,
      Wonderful!! Thanks a bunch for trying this recipe out, I am so glad it was enjoyed! xTieghan

    1. Hey Chris,
      Totally, just freeze before baking and then you can thaw or bake from frozen. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xx

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious! We loved this recipe and couldn’t wait to eat our leftovers for lunch the next day! Will definitely make again.

    1. Hey Liv,
      Wonderful!! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a try, I love to hear that it was a winner! xTieghan

  5. 5 stars
    So tasty! Made two pans the day before, and kept in fridge until it was time to bake. Heated in the oven and topped with fresh basil, it was a hit with a large group. Love make ahead dishes!

    1. Hey Jamie,
      Wonderful! Love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks for making it! Have the best week:) xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    Delicious! I used the whole can of pumpkin and used rigatoni instead of stuffing shells to save time-it was a hit! Will def stay in the cold weather rotation, thanks Tieghan!

    1. Hey Heather,
      Totally, goat cheese would also work well here. I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  7. Hey would this be good to do the night before with regular pasta shells and also gluten free shells without getting soggy or hard!?

    1. Hey Ashleigh,
      Gluten free shells would work here. I would assemble through step 5, cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to bake. I hope the recipe turns out amazing for you. Please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  8. 5 stars
    SOOOOO good! I’ve made this several times and always come back to this recipe when I want a great baked pasta! Thanks for sharing your culinary skills ?

  9. 5 stars
    My first attempt at making stuffed shells and so glad I used this recipe! The pesto makes the whole dish so much better. Will absolutely be my go-to stuffed shells recipe! Thank you so much!

    1. Hey Emme,
      You can use chicken broth in place of the vodka. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan