Use It Up...Freezing Ready-to-Cook Cheese-filled Shells

One frozen convenience food I try to keep on hand is this recipe for Cheese-filled Shells. I package them for 2 – if I expect company I can thaw more packages. I love lasagna, but it’s hard to prepare for 2. This recipe solves that problem. It conveniently uses a box of jumbo pasta shells and I only have the assembly mess once for 7 meals for the 2 of us. I freeze about 1 cup of spaghetti sauce for each meal for 2 people (those 24 ounce jars make 3 meals), or use a half-pint of home canned sauce. The spinach is optional – we like it, but it wasn’t in the original recipe. Barilla pasta is made in Ames, Iowa, so we use it for this recipe. The filling is also good in homemade pasta rolls. 
This is one way I take advantage of cottage cheese sales.
Freezer Cheese Filled Shells
12 ounces shell pasta -- Jumbo ( we use Barilla) - about 40 shells
3 Large eggs -- beaten
4 cups Cottage Cheese -- drained
1 pound mozzarella cheese, part skim milk -- shredded
3 ounces Parmesan cheese -- grated
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 pound spinach, frozen -- thawed and squeezed dry (Spinach is optional)
2 quarts Spaghetti Sauce -- (portion and freeze) (7 -8 cups or 56 – 64 ounces)
Thaw spinach and drain in a colandar - squeeze or press out moisture with a potato masher. Drain cottage cheese.
Cook shells 8 minutes in boiling water in 5-6 quart pot. Drain carefully; rinse in cold water, let drain.
Beat eggs, add to remaining ingredients in same pan pasta cooked in. Stir well.
Stuff each shell with about 2 Tbsp. of filling, a #24 scoop level works well.
Lay out on half sheet pan on waxed paper - 7 rows of 6. Freeze 2 hours or until firm. Bag in 7 quart-size freezer bags (2 servings or 6 filled shells) each.
To serve: Thaw overnight in refrigerator. When ready to bake, spoon 2-3 tbsp. spaghetti sauce into individual casserole, top with 3 shells, then divide remaining sauce between dishes, sprinkle with extra parmesan, COVER and bake 25 minutes at 350°. Let stand, covered, 5-10 minutes to absorb liquid.
To serve larger groups: Spread 1 C. spaghetti sauce in bottom of 9x13" pan. Arrange half recipe (18-20) shells in dish. Pour remaining 2 cups sauce over shells. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes, COVERED until last 5 minutes. Entire recipe makes two 13 x 9" pans.
14 servings
Cost 2017: $11.86 per recipe or 85¢ per serving.
Per Serving : 358 Calories; 13g Fat (33.0% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 896mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 1 Fat.


  1. I wonder if the sauce (Barilla) is made here in Iowa? (OK I Googled it) I love it and almost always use it. They used t make one with olives in it I havent seen in a number of years hubby just craved ! I am going to have to look on the label now.

    1. I can find the one with olives in once in awhile, but most of the time I just buy sliced olives and add when I am heating the sauce. We like capers in our sauce also. I like the extra hit of saltiness the olives give the sauce.

  2. Sounds good! I can still make a pan of lasagna because hubby likes the leftovers for lunches. I think I'd use manicotti for this instead. And I'd sneak in the spinach. ;-) I use Blue Parrot sauce, which is local to Colorado.

    tannawings you can always ask to special order that sauce from your grocer. I order a few things that our store no longer carries & I can't find elsewhere in Frank's Kraut, Herbox, La Choy Chop Suey Vegetables and have even had to order my toothpaste because there are just too many flavors anymore!

    1. I see you are a fan of Frank's Kraut also. Sue and I both buy that brand as it is the closest to what our Grandmothers homemade tasted like. I also still buy and use LaChoy Chop Suey Vegetables. Sure wish I could eat the shells or manicotti but than again, I have found Barilla GF pastas so at least I can have some pasta to eat again. Happy New Years and hope you are warmer that we are.

  3. It is so frustrating to have to special order items I use, but at least I am able to do so. Frank's and La Choy are old favorites from MN. I was introduced to Herbox out here, but then the store stopped carrying it so now I have to special order it. I like the fact it is sodium free, especially for sausage gravy, which I made this morning.

    It's cold here, but perhaps not as cold as you. Thankfully tomorrow & the rest of the week will be warmer...or so they say! Near 50º works for me!

    Happy New Year!

    1. Nice that you can at least order the items. I can buy Herbox here and yes I like the sodium free also. It is supposed to be warmer here tomorrow, 10 above better than the high today which was minus 3 and Minnesota is colder than we are. Great way to start the new year.


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