A 913-inch pan of stuffed shells with meat sauce and shredded cheese.

Skinnier Stuffed Shells Recipe

These Skinnier Stuffed Shells are packed with flavor and a velvety-smooth filling. They’re made skinnier by using fat-free cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and part-skim mozzarella cheese!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword comfort food, pasta
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 497kcal
Author Jillian - a Food, Folks and Fun original!



  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 24-ounce jar pasta sauce


  • 1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
  • 10 saltines broken into pieces
  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus more for garnish
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced


  • Move oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


  • Cook shells as per package instructions until al dente. Drain shells and transfer to kitchen towel-lined baking sheet. Reserve 24 shells, discarding any that have broken.
    Place the cooked shells onto a dish towel to dry.


  • While shells cook, make meat sauce. In large skillet over medium heat add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat and add sauce. Mix until combined.
    Brown the ground beef and stir in the sauce.
  • Spread half meat sauce into bottom or 13 x 9-inch baking dish (or any other, large 3-quart pan); set aside.
    Spread half of the meat sauce into th bottom of a 9x13-inch pan.


  • Pulse crackers in food processor until finely ground. Add cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and process until smooth.
    Process together the crackers, no-fat cottage cheese, shredded cheese, and basil.
  • Place mixture into quart-sized plastic bag, seal and snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe 2 tablespoons filling into each shell.
    Squeeze the filling into the shells and place them in the 9x13-inch pan.


  • Nestle filled shells, seam side up, on top of meat sauce. Evenly distribute remaining sauce over shells. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake until bubbling around edges, 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
    Cover the stuffed shells with half of the meat sauce and shredded cheese.
  • Bake until cheese is just melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and basil. Serve.
    Pan of stuffed shells covered in cheese.


TO MAKE AHEAD: Once shells are topped with sauce they can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days. To finish: remove plastic wrap, cover with foil, and bake until bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Proceed with recipe.


Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 1281mg | Potassium: 786mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 780IU | Vitamin C: 8.3mg | Calcium: 481mg | Iron: 3.3mg