How Many Stuffed Shells Per Person? (Answered)

how many stuffed shells per person
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How Many Stuffed Shells Per Person?

Stuffed shells is an Italian-influenced American recipe that uses jumbo pasta shells and stuffs them with various fillings. There is usually a sauce as well.

A jumbo shell is roughly the size of two ping-pong balls once cooked. The standard dimensions of a jumbo pasta shell are 3.9 inches in length, 8 inches in width, and 6 inches in height. This means that each one can hold a fair amount of filling.

A stuffed shell recipe has three main components–the cooked jumbo pasta shells, filling, and sauce. Some people like to sprinkle various toppings over the finished dish too such as shredded cheese, crispy breadcrumbs, or finely chopped herbs.

Since stuffed shells are a savory dish, they need to be a little spicy, slightly salty, creamy, saucy, and filling with no sweetness. Like lasagna, stuffed shells are baked, imparting a creamy, gooey, crunchy texture to the finished product. Is your mouth watering yet?

So, you’re feeling inspired to make these delicious savory treats for your family or a dinner party. How many stuffed shells should you make per person? This is a tricky question with no right or wrong answer but we will attempt, in this article, to give you a guide.

How Many Stuffed Shells Per Person?

Only a person who is eating the stuffed shells can tell you how many are enough for them! However, there are two ways of looking at this. The first way is to think like a chef and be concerned about satisfying hungry people’s appetites and giving them as many as they can eat.

The second way is to think like a nutritionist and also take into account the calorie count and nutritional content of such foods. In this case, you will be concerned with the high-calorie content of this type of dish and would want to limit portion sizes.

We are going to look at both points of view and give you recommendations for both.

1. Cooking to please hungry appetites

Stuffed pasta shells fall in the food category of lasagne, pizza, and spaghetti bolognese. In other words, delicious, rich, satisfying, and very moreish.

Baked Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
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  • A typical ladies’ portion of this dish would allow for 3-4 stuffed shells per person
  • A typical gent’s portion would cater for 3-6 stuffed shells each
  • Children would probably only manage 2 each
  • To be safe, always make a few extra to be able to offer hungry diners second helpings. This also allows for accidents like dropping one on the floor!

2. Cooking to satisfy but also to maintain health

Stuffed pasta shells are usually high calorie, high in saturated fat, and high in refined carbohydrates. That’s because the pasta is made from refined white flour, the filling is usually mince or cheese, and the sauce usually contains butter and cheese as well.

These are all foods that nutritionists strongly suggest we steer clear of most of the time. Let’s just say that they are not a health food staple but rather an occasional treat!

Stuffed pasta shells
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A person’s recommended daily calorie intake depends upon his/her age, gender, activity level, and state of health. The advised per-day calorie intake for average, healthy individuals is as follows:

  • 1000 calories for children up to two years
  • 3200 calories for young to middle-aged men (age 19 to 25 years)
  • 2000 calories for young to middle-aged women (age 19 to 25 years)
  • and 1600 calories for older men and women (age over 51 years)

(This calorie-intake data has been referenced from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans)

A high-calorie stuffed shells dish, made from 20 pasta shells, contains about 4000 calories. According to the above, if the person is a young male, aged between 15 to 25 years, his daily calorie intake should be around 2000 calories.

If he’s eating three times per day, his lunch or dinner calorie value should be 500 to 600 calories each.

pasta shells stuffed with minced beef tomato sauce
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Since a single stuffed pasta shell contains around 200 calories, a young male (aged between 15 to 25 years) can safely consume 3 stuffed pasta shells. A young woman (aged between 15 to 25 years) can eat 1 to 2 stuffed pasta shells.

This makes it difficult to serve only stuffed pasta shells while keeping within the guidelines but not letting your guests go hungry. We suggest serving a vegetable-based soup as a starter, such as tomato or mushroom.

Then serve the pasta shells along with a fresh tossed salad to fill the plate.

How many “vegan” stuffed shells are enough for one person?

A vegan stuffed shells dish, made from 20 pasta shells, will contain about 2000 calories provided not too much oil is used. Therefore, you can serve double the number of vegan shells and still be within the recommended calorie range.

Ideas For Stuffed Shells

  • Fill the shells with a mix of ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Serve with a marinara sauce.
  • Fill the pasta with a spinach and ricotta mixture, then top with a tomato and red wine sauce. This is lower calorie so you can allow more per person.
  • For vegans, you could use a mushroom stuffing or a mushroom and spinach combination with a tomato-based sauce.
  • Use a bolognese mince to stuff the shells, then top with a cheese sauce. This is basically lasagne in a different shape so serve fewer shells per person and serve a salad on the side.


We hope this article has given you an idea of how many stuffed shells per person is enough. An average of 4 is about right, and you can serve them with salad and a good bread to round out the meal. Enjoy!

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