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Giant cheese stuffed shells on a white plate.

Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells (Olive Garden Copycat Recipe)

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sandra Flegg
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells (Olive Garden Copycat Recipe) are super easy to make in the comfort of your own kitchen with simple step-by-step instructions that I’ve provided.  Italian cheeses filled in pasta shells, nestled on top of rich marinara sauce, topped with a creamy Alfredo sauce and finally a spirinkle of crunchy breadcrumb topping. This Italian-American comfort food just doesn’t get any better! If you love copyat Olive Garden recipes, this one’s a must-try!


1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

7 Tablespoon butter, divided

16 to 20 pasta shells

16 ounces (453g) ricotta cheese

1 large egg

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 and 1/3 cups mozzarella cheese

1 and 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese

Black pepper

1 and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce

fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish for this recipe. 
  2.  Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook for 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

  3.  Cook the pasta shells in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain and set aside. 

  4. Make the cheese filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 and 1/4 cups of Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, minced garlic, pepper and egg. Stir until well combined. (This cheese filling is also one of my favorite fillings for lasagna noodles)!

  5. Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of prepared casserole dish.

  6. Using a small spoon, stuff the shells with ricotta mixture. The shells are large enough that you can gently open them with your fingers as you fill them with the mixture. 
  7. You can also use a piping bag or ziplock bag like i did with beef cannelloni, but I find it pretty easy to use a spoon with the stuffed shells. Place shells in a single layer in baking dish on top of the marinara sauce.

  8. For the remaining marinara sauce, you have two options: In the photos, you will see that I did not top with remaining marinara sauce. You can either pour the rest completely over top or spread a little on top and the remaining sauce around the shells. You can also heat it up and serve it on the side. 

  9.  Make the Alfredo sauce while the shells are cooking: In a large skillet, melt 6 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add in 1 teaspoon of minced garlic and cook for two minutes. Stir in half and half cream and 1 and 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese. Stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Taste and season with freshly ground black pepper. 

  10. After the 25 minute baking time, remove from the oven and spoon alfredo sauce on top of and around the shells. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. 

  11. Set oven to ‘broil’ and set under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and enjoy!


Storage & Reheating Leftovers: Store cooled shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. To reheat, place one serving on plate and microwave for 30 second intervals until heated through. 

Freezing instructions: Stuffed shells is the perfect dish for making ahead and freezing for later. Place in airtight container and freeze for up to two months. Thaw overnight in the fridge between cooking in a 350°F oven to 25 minutes.

Should I defrost frozen stuffed shells before baking?

Yes, take the frozen stuffed shells out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. To reheat, preheat oven to 350°F and cook for 25 minutes until heated through. Serve with additional marinara sauce that has been heated on the stovetop. Freezing stuffed shells for later is perfect for busy weeknights. 


Add cooked veggies to the ricotta mixture – sauté a combination of finely chopped bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and zucchini.  (I do this in my chicken manicotti and it’s delicious!) 

Add cooked spinach to the ricotta mixture – Add fresh or frozen spinach(cooked)  250g (8 ounces) to the ricotta mixture. 

Add cooked meat – stir in 1/2 pound of cooked ground beef, ground turkey or bulk Italian sausage to the ricotta mixture. 

Change up the sauce – you can easily used jarred alfredo sauce, spaghetti sauce or vodka sauce (from Gigi Hadid Pasta Recipe). You can also skip the marinar and make a double batch of alfredo sauce and spread it over the bottom of the baking dish. 

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven Bakd
  • Cuisine: American-Italian


  • Serving Size: 4 giant shells
  • Calories: 1423
  • Sugar: 9.3 g
  • Sodium: 982.7 mg
  • Fat: 43 g
  • Saturated Fat: 25 g
  • Trans Fat: 0.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 192.3 g
  • Fiber: 9.5 g
  • Protein: 63.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 151.1 mg