Stuffed Shells With Meat and Cheese are like special, little lasagna filled boats, and they are the ultimate crowd-pleasing pasta dish. Perfect for both entertaining and family suppers!
Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with a creamy Ricotta filling that’s made extra special with savory ground beef, Mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese! Top off the shells with marinara sauce, bake until hot and bubbly, and serve alongside a batch of freshly baked Garlic Bread!
In addition to the best Stuffed Shells you’ve ever had, we’ll also be serving up a painless way to stuff those shells (no piping bag required) and not one, not two, but three different ways you can make them in advance! Weeknights just got a whole lot easier.
WHAT ARE STUFFED SHELLS?
Stuffed Shells are an Italian-American pasta dish featuring jumbo shells stuffed with a ricotta filling and covered with sauce. Popular fillings for stuffed shells are Three-Cheese, Spinach and Cheese, and of course, Stuffed Shells with Meat!
As you might have guessed, jumbo shells are the star of the show when it comes to this dish. You’ll only need half a package for this recipe.
Stuffed Shells With Meat consists of a flavorful filling of finely chopped yellow onion, seasoned ground beef, Ricotta, shredded Mozzarella, and grated Parmesan cheese.
An egg helps to bind the ingredients together and a couple of extra egg yolks add a good deal of richness to the filling.
This recipe includes instructions for a homemade marinara sauce. Making it is as easy as combining tomato sauce, seasoning, and sugar in a bowl. However, if you have a store-bought sauce you like to use, you can certainly substitute that in.
HOW MANY JUMBO SHELLS COME IN A BOX?
About 48 shells come in a 12-ounce box of jumbo shells. Most recipes (including this one) will only call for half of the box.
HOW TO MAKE STUFFED SHELLS WITH MEAT AND CHEESE
- Cook the Shells – Cook the shells to al dente according to package directions.
- Cook the Onion and Ground Beef – On the stovetop, cook the onion, add the ground beef and season it. Then, transfer it to a mixing bowl.
- Mix Beef and Cheeses – Add the Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, yolks, and basil (if using) to the bowl and stir to combine.
- Mix Marinara Ingredients – In a separate bowl, mix tomato sauce, sugar, seasoning, and basil (if using).
- Stuff the Shells and Assemble In Dish – Add a thin layer of the marinara sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of filling (a cookie scoop works great for this task) and place them seam-side up in the casserole dish. Then, pour the remaining sauce across the top of the shells, and sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.
- Bake – Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the edges are hot and bubbly, about 5 minutes more.
THE EASIEST WAY TO STUFF SHELL PASTA
If you’ve ever made Stuffed Shells before, you know getting into those suckers might at first seem perplexing. The first thing you need to know about stuffing jumbo shell pasta is that the pasta should be cooked to al dente — this means the pasta is neither too crunchy or too soft and has a slightly firm bite to it.
Al dente is important when it comes to stuffing shells: If your pasta is overcooked, the shells will tear as you try to stuff them.
Once the pasta is cool enough to handle, hold it in the palm of your (non-dominant) hand and gently squeeze the edges to hold it open. A cookie scoop will make quick work of stuffing shells, but if you do not have one, a soup spoon will also do fine.
Add about 2 tablespoon-sized mounds of filling to the inside of the shells. As tempting as it may be, try not to overfill them.
HOW MANY STUFFED SHELLS IS A SERVING?
Stuffed Shells with Meat are heartier and more filling than they may appear at first glance. Two to three shells is considered one serving.
WHAT SIDE DISHES GO WITH STUFFED SHELLS?
Serve them with garlic bread, a side salad, or green vegetables for a well-rounded meal!
WANT TO MAKE IT AHEAD?
You have three options when it comes to making Stuffed Shells With Meat and Cheese in advance:
- Make it, bake it, and reheat it.
- Make it, don’t bake it, refrigerate it, and bake later.
- Make it, bake it, and freeze it. Then, thaw it and reheat it later.
HOW TO FREEZE STUFFED SHELLS
If you plan to make stuffed shells for future use, you can go about it two ways:
1. FREEZE IN CASSEROLE FORM
Before you add any ingredients to your casserole dish, line it with foil, leaving enough of an overhang beyond the edges to cover and seal the casserole. Assemble the casserole and bake it. As soon as the shells have cooled, transfer the casserole dish to the freezer and freeze completely. Once the contents in the dish are frozen solid, remove it from the dish, and enclose using the foil overhangs.
Transfer to a freezer-safe ziptop bag or another storage container and store it in the freezer. Use within 3 months for best results.
2. FREEZE THEM FREE-FORM (MUCH, MUCH EASIER)
You can also skip all the foil fuss, and simply transfer the Stuffed Shells straight from a casserole dish to a freezer-safe storage container, seal, and freeze. Again, use within 3 months for best results.
HOW TO THAW AND REHEAT STUFFED SHELLS WITH MEAT
The best way to thaw your Shells is to place them in the refrigerator overnight. To reheat, heat the oven to 350°F and bake for 15-20 minutes, just until heated through.
5 MORE PASTA RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- Meatball Casserole
- Lasagna Bolognese
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Shrimp and Pasta with Capers
Stuffed Shells with Meat and Cheese features jumbo pasta shells with Ricotta, ground beef, Mozzarella, and Parmesan, topped with marinara and baked til bubbly!
- 1/2 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 pound 80/20 ground beef
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder, separated
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, separated
- 1 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, separated
- 1 (16-ounce) container Ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, separated
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg (slightly beaten) + 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil, separated (optional)
- 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400° and have ready a greased 9x13" casserole dish.
Cook 1/2 of a 12-ounce package of shells (about 20 shells) to al dente according to package directions, drain, and set aside to cool.
While waiting on the shells to cook, begin on the filling. Add the olive to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and allow to come to temperature. Add the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes, just until softened.
Add the beef, break it apart with a wooden spoon, and season with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the beef is fully cooked through.
Remove the beef from the pan using a slotted spoon and add to a large mixing bowl along with Ricotta, 1 cup Mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, egg yolks, and 2 tablespoons chopped basil (if using). Stir to combine well and set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add tomato sauce, sugar, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil (if using). Stir and set aside.
Add about 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the beef filling (a cookie scoop works great for this task) and place them seam-side up in the casserole dish. Once your shells are filled, pour the remaining sauce across the tops of them, and sprinkle with the remaining cup of Mozzarella cheese.
Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the edges are hot and bubbly, about 5 minutes more. Serve and enjoy.