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Knowing how long to cook frozen stuffed shells is often a grey area. Many home cooks including myself are concerned they may accidentally under-cook or over-bake their pasta.
How Long to Cook Frozen Stuffed Shells?
Have you asked yourself these questions when deciding how to cook your frozen shells? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
- Do I have to thaw the shells?
- Do I cook them as they preheat?
- Will they dry out as they bake?
- Do they have to be pre-baked?
These are just some of the questions we’ll dive into so you can cook your shells just right.
So, whether store bought or homemade, here’s what you need to know to properly cook your frozen stuffed shells.
How Long to Bake Frozen Stuffed Shells
It’s important to know that stuffed pasta shells from the store will be pre-cooked, but not necessarily the filling. To cook the store bought shells follow these steps.
- Place some sauce on the bottom of the pan
- Add the shells in a single layer
- Cover the shells with sauce so no pasta shells are exposed
- Cover and bake in an oven proof dish at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Make sure the internal temperature of the shells register 165F.
Most pasta shells are large or jumbo shells. This doesn’t impact how long you need to bake them.
Cooking Frozen Homemade Stuffed Shells
However, for Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Ricotta, it depends how you originally cooked the shells. Plus, if you thawed the shells overnight, then this will change the cooking time.
- Frozen pre-cooked stuffed shells should be baked in a standard oven at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour. If the shells are partially pre-cooked, extend the cooking time by 30 minutes. Make sure the shells are covered with sauce so no pasta is exposed.
- If the shells have thawed and are fully pre-cooked, then they should be baked in a preheated standard oven at 350F for 45 minutes. If the thawed shells were originally partially baked, extend the cook time by 30 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Make sure the shells are covered with sauce so no pasta is exposed.
- Ensure that the internal temperature of the stuffed shells reaches 165F.
Keep in mind that these times and temperatures are estimates based on a standard oven. If you are using a convection oven reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and the cooking time by 20 minutes.
Ovens can vary in cooking efficiency for a variety of reasons. Therefore, make sure to always check to see if the shells have reached an internal temperature of 165F. If not, place back in the oven and continue heating in increments of 20 minutes since opening an oven door can drop the internal temperature by several degrees each time.
Should You Thaw the Stuffed Shells Before Cooking
There is no need to thaw your frozen stuffed shells. Store bought frozen shells most often state that you cook them frozen. If you are cooking homemade stuffed shells, it is advised to thaw them in the refrigerator a day in advance to ensure even baking and shorter cooking time.
Do You Cover Frozen Shells When Baking
You always want to cover your stuffed shells when baking in the oven or even the microwave. This helps trap the heat and cook the shells without losing moisture. This is another way to prevent dry edges of the pasta shells.
How to Cook Frozen Shells with no Sauce
If your shells do not include sauce, add your own sauce on top to cover the shells. before baking. The sauce will keep the shells moist during the baking process. Otherwise, add some water and cover during the baking process.
You can add additional sauce anytime while baking.
Store bought pasta may come with sauce packets. Use half the sauce to cover the bottom of the baking dish and the other half on top. Some instructions such as from Celentano recommend mixing half of the sauce with ¼ cup of water for the top.
Using a Crockpot to Bake Frozen Stuffed Shells
You can cook frozen stuffed shells in a crockpot using either the high or low settings. Although cooking in a crockpot is convenient, there are a few pros and cons, and I do not recommend it.
The benefits are that you can set it and forget it for an extended amount of time. However, the downside is that pasta in general, when cooked in a crockpot, absorbs so much liquid it becomes overcooked and mushy. It loses its firmness and texture that is characteristic of a stuffed pasta shell. I’ve found this to be true for any pasta, whether it’s lasagna, penne, or baked pasta.
Check your crockpot instructions for specific instructions since not all crockpots are alike. For example, Cookworks Signature brand states in their manual that they do not recommend using a slow cooker for pasta.
Using a Microwave to Cook Stuffed Shells
Here are some tips for cooking your shells in the microwave.
- I recommend only cooking store bought frozen stuffed shells in the microwave
- Cook 2-3 at a time
- Make sure the internal temperature reaches 165F
- Cover the shells first with sauce and cover with a lid
- Cook on high for 5 minutes
Retail Brands that Sell Stuffed Frozen Shells
Here are some brands known at the time of this post to offer frozen stuffed shells. Grocery stores such as Walmart, Meijer and Giant among others may carry one of these brands in their freezer aisle.
Knowing how to properly cook frozen stuffed pasta shells can be the difference between an excellent Italian dinner and one that is ruined. Always follow the instructions and don’t rush a good meal. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave any comments below with your own tips.
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