Olive Garden Stuffed Shells {Copycat Recipe}

Olive Garden Stuffed Shells are so easy to make and reheat heat splendidly. Whether you prefer yours heavy on marinara and light on creamy Alfredo sauce or are an Olive Garden purist, this recipe will check every box you crave.

olive garden stuffed shells copycat recipe

Making Olive Garden Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably planning on doing it up right with these no-fail giant stuffed shells. There are a lot of Olive Garden copycat recipes out there that mimic this iconic dish. But this recipe is by far my favorite. I’ve made it more times than I can count and finally perfected the recipe.

This recipe includes homemade Alfredo sauce, which I swear is easy to make. I also recommend making your own. But if you really don’t have the time, store-bought is also fine.

Ingredients

  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (or pasta sauce)
  • 8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (and another 1 tsp for Alfredo sauce) 
  • 1 tbsp dried basil 
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano 
  • 1 large egg
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, set aside 2 tbsp for your Alfredo sauce 
  • 6 oz shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
  • Fresh parsley (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In a large pasta pot, boil salted water with one tablespoon of butter. Then cook your giant pasta shells by the package directions. Take them out a few minutes before you normally would and rinse quickly under cold water to stop the cooking process. You want them to be al dente. Remember, you’ll be adding sauce on top later and putting them back in the oven, so they’ll cook further. Once your shells are cooked, set them aside for later.
  2. Next, we’re going to make the toasted breadcrumbs. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add in your bread crumbs and toast until a warm golden brown. About 2 minutes. Set aside for later. This is going to be your topping.  
  3. For your cheese mixture, in a large mixing bowl combine your ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, dried oregano, dried basil, minced garlic, and egg. You can also add a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper. Set aside for stuffing your shells in a few minutes.
  4. Now it’s time to stuff your shells. In a large baking dish, spread a liberal layer of marinara sauce (about 1 cup) on the bottom. After filling each shell with your cheese mixture, line them in the pan. Then add another layer of pasta sauce on top. 
  5. Then, in a 400-degree oven, place your casserole dish in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  6. While your pasta shells are in the oven, make your creamy Alfredo sauce. In a small saucepan, on medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and the 1 tsp of garlic. Mix well. Bring to a simmer and 2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella. Let simmer for 5 minutes until your sauce begins to reduce and thicken. Set aside.
  7. Remove the casserole from the oven. Turn your oven from bake to broil. Then drizzle your creamy Alfredo sauce over the top and sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. 
  8. Remove and let sit for five minutes before serving. 

Recipe Notes

Here are a few recipe notes that might come in handy when preparing your Olive Garden Giant Cheese Pasta Shells.

Don’t use raw garlic. I’m not usually a fan of jarred garlic. But in this recipe, it makes sense since you aren’t baking the dish for very long. Because of how long you’re cooking the dish in the oven, it’s best to use jarred garlic so your garlic doesn’t come out raw. 

You can literally use any Italian cheese blend you want. Or cheese for that matter! Don’t feel like you have to stick to mozzarella and parmesan. It is important that you use ricotta, or an equivalent substitute, so it comes out creamy. 

Cook your shells to package directions but leave them extra al dente. As mentioned above, this is important. You don’t want mushy shells. 

Lastly, if you want to add what I call a “dash of fancy,” which translates into pure deliciousness, throw in a dash of freshly ground nutmeg into your Alfredo sauce. You’ll thank me later.

copycat-olive-garden-stuffed-shells
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Olive Garden Stuffed Shells

There is no denying that Olive Garden's Cheese Stuffed shells are one of their most popular dishes. Cheesy, delicious with just the right amount of sauce.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Copycat
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: copycat recipe, Olive Garden, olive garden stuffed shells
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 599kcal

Ingredients

  • 12 oz jumbo shells 1 box
  • 3 cups marinara sauce or pasta sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter 1 stick
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried basil 
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano 
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese set aside 2 tbsp for the Alfredo sauce
  • 6 oz shredded parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • cup breadcrumbs
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

For Alfredo Sauce

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • nutmeg a pinch, optional

Instructions

  • In a large pasta pot, boil salted water with one tablespoon of butter. Then cook your giant pasta shells by the package directions. Take them out a few minutes before you normally would and rinse quickly under cold water to stop the cooking process. You want them to be al dente. Remember, you’ll be adding sauce on top later and putting them back in the oven, so they’ll cook further. Once your shells are cooked, set them aside for later.
  • Next, we’re going to make the toasted breadcrumbs. In a non-stick pan on medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add in your bread crumbs and toast until a warm golden brown. About 2 minutes. Set aside for later. This is going to be your topping. 
  • For your cheese mixture, in a large mixing bowl combine your ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, dried oregano, dried basil, minced garlic, and egg. You can also add a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper. Set aside for stuffing your shells in a few minutes.
  • Now it’s time to stuff your shells. In a large baking dish, spread a liberal layer of marinara sauce (about 1 cup) on the bottom. After filling each shell with your cheese mixture, line them in the pan. Then add another layer of pasta sauce on top.
  • Then, in a 400-degree oven, place your casserole dish in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  • While your pasta shells are in the oven, make your creamy Alfredo sauce. In a small saucepan, on medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and the 1 tsp of garlic. Mix well. Bring to a simmer and 2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella. Let simmer for 5 minutes until your sauce begins to reduce and thicken. Set aside.
  • Remove the casserole from the oven. Turn your oven from bake to broil. Then drizzle your creamy Alfredo sauce over the top and sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 599kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.003g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 1444mg | Potassium: 612mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1725IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 788mg | Iron: 4mg

Variations on Stuffed Shells with Italian Cheeses

There are really endless variations when it comes to mixing up the flavor and ingredients of Olive Garden Stuffed Shells. From adding ground beef or Italian sausage to your cheese mixture to swapping out your Italian cheeses for variations such as Gorgonzola, Gouda, or Cheddar.  

Looking to make a slightly healthier version? Add some veggies to your cheese such as defrosted frozen broccoli, sautéd spinach, or even some steamed kale. 

Want that meat texture without the actual ground beef? Mince and sauté some baby portobello mushrooms and add those. There is a 90% chance you won’t be able to tell the difference. 

Finally, if you’re looking to really mix up these Olive Garden Stuffed Shells, try making them without red sauce. (See my image below). I definitely recommend adding some greens such as kale or spinach if you are doing this. You can even replace the creamy Alfredo sauce with a drizzle of pesto sauce at the end. 

How do you reheat Olive Garden Stuffed Shells?

The best thing about casseroles such as these giant stuffed shells is that they taste just as good the second and third day as they do the first. 

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than leftovers that taste not-so-great the next day. 

To reheat your Olive Garden Stuffed Shells:

  1. Take your shells out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan on putting them in the oven. This will take the chill off your casserole and will help you from overcooking them in the oven.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  3. Cover your shells with aluminum foil and cook for 15 minutes or until warm. A cool way to check whether or not the insides of your shells are warm is to insert a metal fork or knife into the center. If the end is still cold when you remove it, cook 5 minutes longer.

What to Serve with Olive Garden Stuffed Shells

The possibilities are really endless on what to serve with giant cheese stuffed shells? Below are a few fan favorites from our website. And a few others from across the web that we fully endorse.

Kings Hawaiian Bread Recipe

Mediterranean Cucumber Salad

10 Fresh Fruit and Salad Recipes

Almost-Famous Breadsticks

Italian Cream Cheese and Ricotta Cheesecake

More Pasta Recipes

Creamy Parmesan Alfredo Tortellini

Kielbasa and Onion Pasta

Penne Pomodoro 

Crockpot Pierogi Casserole

Spicy Noodles

This Copycat Olive Garden recipe for jumbo stuffed shells is the best out there. But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself or your family and let me know what you think.

olive garden stuffed shells - pinterest pin

Have questions or suggestions about these giant cheese-stuffed shells? Leave them in the comments below. Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉

One Response

  1. Jaime July 7, 2022 Reply

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