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How many stuffed shells in a half tray?

Stuffed shells are a delicious Italian-American dish that is perfect for feeding a crowd. They are jumbo pasta shells that are filled with cheese and other ingredients like spinach or meat, baked in a tomato sauce. Stuffed shells are often served in trays or pans at potlucks, parties, and Italian restaurants. But how many stuffed shells fit in a half tray? This is an important question when determining how much to make for your event or meal. In this article, we will provide a detailed answer on how many stuffed shells typically fit in a half tray, along with helpful information on shell sizes, recipes, and tips for preparation. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the shell count for a half tray of stuffed shells!

What is Considered a Half Tray?

When referring to a half tray of stuffed shells, this means a half sheet pan or baking tray that is about 13 inches x 18 inches (33 cm x 46 cm). These types of pans are also known as half hotel pans or steam table pans. Professional kitchens and caterers often use these standard sizes of pans for cooking and transporting large quantities of food.

For home cooks, a standard metal baking sheet or even a 9 inch x 13 inch glass or metal baking dish would equate to about a half tray size. The important thing is that the pan dimensions allow for stuffed shells to lay flat and snugly in a single layer.

Common Shell Sizes

Stuffed shells are usually made with medium to extra-large pasta shells. Here are the typical shell sizes:

  • Medium shells: about 2.5-3 inches long
  • Large shells: 3-4 inches long
  • Jumbo shells: 4-5 inches long
  • Extra-large shells: 5-6 inches long

Jumbo and extra-large shells are best for stuffing as they provide ample room for fillings. Large shells also work well, while medium shells may be too small unless using a petite filling.

When purchasing shells for stuffed shells, look for packaging that indicates the size such as jumbo, colossal, gigantic, or extra-large. Shells labeled as “stuffing shells” are usually a good size.

How Much Filling per Shell?

The amount of filling per stuffed pasta shell can vary slightly based on the ingredients and recipes used. Here are some general guidelines for filling amounts:

  • Medium shells: 1-2 tablespoons filling
  • Large shells: 2-3 tablespoons filling
  • Jumbo shells: 3-4 tablespoons filling
  • Extra-large shells: 4-5 tablespoons filling

Popular cheese fillings include ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, and cottage cheese. Cooked chopped spinach, ground meat, or Italian seasoned breadcrumbs are often added to the cheese mixture.

When stuffing the pasta shells, it’s important not to overfill them too much or the filling will ooze out while baking. The shells and filling should be proportionate in size.

How Many Stuffed Shells Fit in a Half Tray?

Now that we have covered shell sizes and filling amounts, how many stuffed shells will a half tray hold?

Here is a general estimate of stuffed shell counts for a 13 inch x 18 inch half tray:

  • Medium shells: 24-30 shells
  • Large shells: 18-24 shells
  • Jumbo shells: 12-18 shells
  • Extra-large shells: 9-12 shells

The final number can vary slightly based on how tightly you pack the shells and if you use a sauce in the tray. But on average, you can expect a half tray to hold:

  • 24-30 medium stuffed shells
  • 18-24 large stuffed shells
  • 12-18 jumbo stuffed shells
  • 9-12 extra-large stuffed shells

If you want an exact number for convenience, you can plan for these amounts:

  • 28 medium stuffed shells
  • 20 large stuffed shells
  • 15 jumbo stuffed shells
  • 10 extra-large stuffed shells

This should provide a full single layer of snugly packed stuffed shells in a standard 13 x 18 inch half tray.

Recipe Adjustments

To adjust your stuffed shells recipe to yield a half tray amount, here are some tips:

  • Plan for 28-30 medium shells, 20 large shells, 15 jumbo shells, or 10 extra-large shells
  • Adjust the amount of filling according to the recommended 1-5 tablespoons per shell
  • For cheese fillings, use 8-16 ounces of ricotta or cottage cheese as the base
  • Scale any additional filling ingredients like spinach, meat, or seasonings
  • Use 24-32 ounces of tomato sauce to cover the shells half way
  • Parbake any extra shells and sauce separately to enjoy leftovers later

Baking time will need to be increased slightly for a full half tray. Bake covered for 40-50 minutes at 350°F until hot and bubbly. Uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more to brown the top.

Tips for Assembling and Baking

Here are some helpful tips for easily assembling and baking a full half tray of stuffed shells:

– Work over a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips or spills while filling the shells.

– Use a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off to neatly pipe the filling into each shell.

– Arrange stuffed shells seam side down and packed snugly together in rows to fit a half tray.

– Pour sauce evenly over the shells just until halfway up the sides of the shells.

– Cover tightly with foil and bake at least 40 minutes before uncovering to brown.

– Let shells rest 10-15 minutes before serving so they firm up and hold their shape better.

– Garnish with extra sauce, cheese, and chopped parsley before serving.

Serving Size

A half tray of stuffed shells will generally serve 6-8 people as a main course or appetizer. To determine exact serving sizes:

– Medium shells: 3-4 shells per person
– Large shells: 2-3 shells per person
– Jumbo shells: 2 shells per person
– Extra-large shells: 1-2 shells per person

Adjust as needed based on the overall appetite of your diners. Stuffed shells also pair nicely with salads, garlic bread, and wine.

Leftover Storage

Stuffed shells hold up very well for leftovers. To store leftovers:

– Allow shells to cool completely before refrigerating.
– Transfer shells and sauce to airtight containers.
– Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
– Reheat shells gently in the sauce until heated through.

The shells may break down a little but will still taste great. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.


To summarize, a standard half tray or 13 x 18 inch baking pan will hold approximately:

– 28 medium stuffed shells
– 20 large stuffed shells
– 15 jumbo stuffed shells
– 10 extra-large stuffed shells

Use 1-5 tablespoons of filling per shell depending on the size. Bake at 350°F covered for 40-50 minutes then uncovered for 5-10 minutes until hot and browned.

A half tray will serve 6-8 people as a main dish or appetizer. Adjust your favorite stuffed shell recipe accordingly to yield this amount. Follow these tips for easy assembly, baking, serving, and storage of a crowd-pleasing half tray of cheesy stuffed shells!