Olive Garden Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

The luscious cheese filling and rich marinara and alfredo sauces keep some coming back to Olive Garden again and again for their beloved giant stuffed shells. But this simple recipe makes it easy to enjoy at home.

homemade Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells in a pasta bowl.

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Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells 

There’s no doubt Olive Garden is one of the go-to spots for many people craving a deliciously filling Italian meal. But while the endless pasta, soups, salads, and breadsticks may get a lot of attention, one of the real stars of the menu is the chain’s Giant Stuffed Pasta Shells.

While they may look intimidating, it’s surprisingly straightforward to make this delicacy right in your own kitchen. It’s great for busy weeknights or when you want a comforting pasta dish for dinner.

What makes the Olive Garden Stuffed Shells so good?

Giant stuffed shells take many of the best parts of Italian pasta dishes and supersize them. That means more creamy, flavorful cheese filling, more tender pasta shells, and more rich, perfectly seasoned marinara sauce and creamy alfredo sauce to dress it all with.

It’s also entirely meatless, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians or those cutting back on their meat consumption (without feeling like you’re missing out).

Why this is the best copycat Olive Garden Stuffed Shells recipe

While there are several components to creating perfect Olive Garden giant pasta shells, this recipe breaks them down into simple components, allowing even beginner cooks to build a masterpiece out of humble parts. In addition, the use of premade marinara removes the hassle of making your own sauce. 


Here’s what you’ll need to produce the big flavors and hearty sustenance of this classic dish. You can find all of them at regular grocery stores.

  • Regular or Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • Butter
  • Jumbo shells
  • Full-fat ricotta cheese
  • Italian blend shredded cheese
  • Egg
  • Marinara sauce
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley
Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells ingredients on a tray.

Ingredient substitutions and recipe variations

If you don’t have some of the ingredients on hand or want to change things up a bit, try these helpful substitutions:

  • Switch out the shells for manicotti instead. Filling any type of cooked pasta is a ton of work.
  • Add spinach. Thaw some frozen chopped spinach, drain it, and squeeze out the liquid. Stir in about ½ cup into the ricotta filling.
  • Love garlic? Add a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves or some garlic powder to the alfredo sauce or marinara sauce.
  • Make things easier by using lasagna noodles instead! To make, boil the lasagna noodles according to the package or opt for no-boil lasagna noodles to save a step. Assemble the dish by coating the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking pan with a layer of marinara sauce to keep the noodles from sticking. Lay down a layer of lasagna noodles, then spread the cheese mixture on top and cover the cheese with the rest of the noodles. Pour the Alfredo sauce over the noodles and bake in the oven as directed.
  • Add a little bit of meat. Serve a few meatballs or sliced Italian sausages alongside these Olive Garden Stuffed Shells for extra protein and a whole lot of flavor! You can also use a meat sauce with ground beef or Italian sausage instead of marinara sauce to integrate it directly into your meal. 

How to Make Olive Garden Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Don’t be put off by the number of steps here — the final result is more than worth the effort:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt the butter and pour it over the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Stir to combine. 
  3. Spread the buttered breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake until they begin to brown, about six minutes. Set aside to cool.
toasted buttered bread crumbs on a baking sheet.
  1. Cook shells as directed on the package. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, warm the marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Combine ricotta cheese and Italian cheese blend with the whisked egg. Set aside.
  4. Add the butter and cream to a small pan or skillet and heat over medium-high. When it begins to bubble, add the parmesan and stir until the cheese has melted. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer. Taste and season with black pepper if desired.
  5. Stuff 15 cooled shells with the ricotta filling. 
  6. Prepare an oven-safe pie plate, baking dish, or pasta bowl by pouring a cup of marinara sauce onto the bottom.
marinara sauce in a pie plate.
  1. Pour alfredo sauce over the shells until partially covered.
  2. Bake at 350°F until the shells are heated to 160°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. Garnish with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs and chopped parsley, basil, or oregano.
a bowl of homemade Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells.

How to serve Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are undoubtedly among the most filling and substantial pasta dishes you’ll find. They work well as a main course when serving multiple shells per person, while a single shell or two can be a perfect pasta dish for a multi-course Italian feast. 

What goes well with them

The richness of the cheesy filling and tomato-heavy sauce that make up stuffed shells are ideally complemented with a fresh companion. This can include a house salad with a herby vinaigrette or veggies like asparagus, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and more. Or, tuck into a carb-lover’s paradise with a serving of garlic bread or Italian breadsticks

Don’t forget a delicious beverage to round out your meal. Red or white wine go well with pasta, though a hoppy IPA also works with this dish. For non-alcoholic options, sparkling water or seltzer is an excellent choice. 

How to Store and Reheat

Like most pasta dishes, Olive Garden giant stuffed shells are best enjoyed fresh. However, the leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for several days when stored properly. Allow them to reach room temperature, then store them in an airtight container or cover the dish with aluminum foil. Reheat them in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes or until warm. However, they still often won’t regain the same texture as fresh.

For longer-term, higher-quality storage, try freezing the unbaked, unsauced shells in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray. They’ll stay at the best quality for up to two months. Simply defrost in the fridge, assemble, and bake to enjoy a quick, delicious meal. 

overhead view of homemade Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells.

More Olive Garden copycat recipes

Favorite Italian recipes

Check out more of my easy Italian recipes and the best Olive Garden pasta recipes here on CopyKat!

homemade Olive Garden giant cheese stuffed shells in a pasta bowl.

Olive Garden Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

You can make Olive Garden Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells at home with this easy copycat recipe.
5 from 14 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Cheese Stuffed Pasta, Cheese Stuffed Shells, Olive Garden Recipes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 3
Calories: 1158kcal


Toasted Breadcrumbs

  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Pasta Shells

  • 15 jumbo pasta shells

Pasta Filling

  • 2 cups full fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1 egg

Pasta Sauce

  • 24 ounces marinara sauce

Alfredo Sauce

  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 3 ounces butter
  • 3 ounces shredded parmesan cheese


  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toasted Breadcrumbs

  • Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in the microwave. Pour the melted butter over ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Stir to combine.
  • Spread out the buttered breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place in the hot oven for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the breadcrumbs begin to brown.
  • Remove the breadcrumbs from the oven. Place the browned breadcrumbs in a small dish.

Pasta Shells

  • Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions.

Pasta Sauce

  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the marinara sauce on the stovetop in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat.

Pasta Filling

  • Make the filling by whisking the egg in a small bowl. Add the ricotta cheese and Italian cheese blend of cheese and stir to combine the cheese mixture.

Alfredo Sauce

  • Place 3 ounces of butter, and 3 ounces of heavy cream in a small pot over medium-high heat.
  • When the cream begins to bubble, add the parmesan and stir until the cheese has melted. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture.

To Assemble the Dish

  • Stuff 15 shells with ricotta cheese filling.
  • Pour 1 cup of sauce into the bottom of 3 pasta bowls or pie plates.
  • Lay 5 stuffed shells on top of the marinara sauce in each of the bowls.
  • Pour just enough alfredo sauce over the shells to partially cover them.
  • Place the bowls or pie plates in the oven until the shells are heated through, about 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with toasted breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley.



You may want to cook extra pasta shells just in case any break while stuffing them.


Calories: 1158kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 83g | Saturated Fat: 51g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 23g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 319mg | Sodium: 2349mg | Potassium: 1153mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 3635IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 995mg | Iron: 5mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home, and CopyKat.com's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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