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Stuffed Shells With Meat Recipe

This stuffed shells with meat recipe will be one of your favorite dinners. It is the epitome of comfort food and is sure to bring everyone running to the dinner table. Plus, with our easy to follow recipe, you can easily make this whole dish in just minutes.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Pasta Shells With Meat Sauce

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a delicious cheese mixture and a homemade meat sauce is a classic Italian dinner. Italian grandmas have been making this dish for decades which is why it needs to be a staple in your home. Sitting down to a big baking dish full of stuffed shells with the whole family around you is a tradition that should live on forever!

baked stuffed shells with meat

We will show you how to make authentic jumbo pasta shells stuffed with ground beef, cheese and the most delicious marinara sauce you have ever tried. When that baking dish of Italian stuffed shells in is the oven, wonderful, irresistable smells will fill your home and make you instantly smile. Meat-stuffed shells really are the ultimate comfort food.

 

Ingredients for Italian Stuffed Pasta Shells

Here is a quick look at the ingredients you will need to make these stuffed shells with ground beef. The full quantities are listed in the recipe below but we wanted to give you an overview of what you will need to make the best stuffed shells recipe ever.

Ready to be served stuffed shells with meat

  • Jumbo pasta shells – Jumbo pasta shells can be found in almost every grocery store. Make sure to get the large shells, not smaller shells which are best for mac and cheese. Cook pasta shells according to the package instructions- do not use uncooked, dry shells!

  • Ricotta cheese – Whole milk ricotta cheese is best stuffed pasta shells. It has the thickest consistency and lots of flavor.

  • Mozzarella cheese – Buy pre-shredded mozzarella cheese to save a little time in the kitchen.

  • Parmesan cheese – Make sure you buy real parmesan cheese and not the powdered stuff that comes in the plastic container. You want real, refrigerated cheese to make the perfect Italian cheese blend for stuffed shells with meat! Pre-grated cheese is just fine, but not those fake parmesan cheeses!

  • Eggs

  • Dried parsley – Parsley is a classic Italian seasoning and is delicious in the stuffed pasta shells.

  • Dried basil – Basil is another traditional Italian seasoning that you really need to make the best stuffed pasta shells ever.

  • Salt and pepper

  • Ground beef – Use ground beef that is labeled as 85/15. This means that the meat is 15% fat which is a great ratio for cooking. It is not too greasy and will blend perfectly into your quick homemade sauce.

  • Marinara sauce – You can make homemade marinara sauce or save a little time and buy a jar in the grocery store. Make sure you get a high quality, store bought sauce as it is a main ingredient in these stuffed shells with meat.

Once you have all of your ingredients together, you are ready to cook! Are you getting excited to eat the best stuffed shells with meat of your life? This is going to be a recipe you pass down for generations, we promise!

Pot with ragù

Variations

While these stuffed shells with ground beef are fantastic exactly as the recipe is written, we do have a few stuffed shells variations and tweaks that will work well. Take a look at these recipe substitutes and see if any catch your eye.

 

  • Add 1 cup fresh chopped spinach to the ricotta filling to make spinach stuffed shells with meat.

  • Use chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil to top the stuffed shells as a garnish

  • Replace the ground beef with ground chicken, ground turkey or ground Italian sausage. You can even use a blend of meats to make the hearty meat sauce even more flavorful. A mix of ground turkey and beef or Italian sausage and beef always works well. Even vegetarian ground “meat” will work! Make a little extra sauce and use the remaining meat sauce for your next pasta meal.

  • Replace half of the ricotta cheese with cottage cheese to make stuffed shells that are a little bit lighter. On the other side, you can mix in 1/2 cup of cream cheese to make the Italian cheese blend even more rich and decadent.

  • Line the stuffed shells with meat up in a large skillet rather than a casserole dish. Cooking the stuffed shells in a cast iron skillet makes for a great, rustic presentation. Just make sure to use a skillet that is oven safe.

    3 stuffed shells

How to Make Stuffed Shells With Meat Sauce

Here is a quick look at how to make these delicious jumbo shells with meat sauce and ricotta cheese filling. This recipe may require a few steps, but they are all nice and easy. After you make a baking dish of stuffed shells just once, you will be as good as any Italian chef!

  1. Make the sauce: Start by making the meat sauce. While you can make your own pasta sauce from scratch, it is very easy to jazz up a jarred spaghetti sauce. Simply brown the ground beef in a large pot then stir in the marinara sauce. Simmer to thicken the sauce then set it aside.

  2. Cook the shells: Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the box directions. Cook the shells until they are al dente. Drain the water then toss the cooked shells in some olive oil to prevent them from sticking together. Set the shells aside.

  3. Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese with the eggs and herbs.

  4. Stuff the shells: Hold one cooked pasta shell in your hand and scoop about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture into the shell. Place the stuffed shell in a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff the remaining shells and line them all up in the baking dish in nice rows.

  5. Add the sauce: Top the stuffed shells with the meat sauce, coating them completely.

  6. Add the cheese: Sprinkle the shells with the extra mozzarella cheese.

  7. Bake: Bake the stuffed shells until the cheese has melted and is starting to turn golden brown. Serve while warm.

How to Store Stuffed Shells with Meat

If you have leftover stuffed shells, wrap the baking dish in plastic wrap and store the jumbo shells in the fridge for 4-5 days. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and return the baking dish to the oven for about 10 minutes to reheat. You can also scoop the cold stuffed shells into a microwave safe bowl and reheat them in the microwave.

 

Can I Freeze Stuffed Shells with Meat?

You can definitely freeze jumbo stuffed shells! Make this stuffed shells recipe completely but do not bake the shells yet. Just assemble the tray then wrap the entire thing in plastic wrap and freeze. The stuffed shells will keep in the freezer for 3 months.

Stuffed shells ready to be placed in the oven.

When you are ready to enjoy your stuffed shell meal, unwrap the baking dish and place it into the oven. Bake the shells for 10 minutes longer than directed in the recipe. You will have a homemade meal ready in no time! Freezing stuffed shells is a fantastic way to meal prep.

 

What to Serve with This Stuffed Shells Recipe

Stuffed shells go well with so many other Italian dishes. Serve them with a side of garlic bread that you can also dip in any remaining sauce. These classic stuffed shells are also fantastic with a side salad or a nice minestrone soup as an appetizer.

Of course, our easy stuffed shells recipe is filling enough to be a complete meal all on its own. That’s just another reason to love Italian pasta recipes! They will fill you right up in a very good way.

Are you ready to make some incredible stuffed shells with meat? Then let’s get cooking!

If you want to learn even more about cooking stuffed shells, be sure to check out our stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and spinach.

Stuffed shells with meat recipe Feature Image - 1390x600

Stuffed Shells with Meat Recipe

Stuffed shells with meat is an easy and quick recipe and at the same time very tasty and traditional Italian.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Pasta, Primo
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 people
Calories 395 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box (12 ounces) Jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 32 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 8 ounces parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 eggs whisked
  • 2 tablespons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces ground beef
  • 40 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarellacheese extra shredded

Instructions
 

  • Add the ground beef to a large pot and cook over medium heat. As the beef cooks, chop it up into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook the meat until it is no longer pink and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Once the beef has browned, add the marinara sauce to the pot. Bring the sauce to a simmer then let the sauce cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Once done, remove the pot from the stovetop and set aside.
  • Next, cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the package directions. Cook the shells to al dente then strain and toss the shells with a small amount of olive oil to prevent them from sticking. Set the shells aside while you make the cheese mixture.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley and basil. Mix well.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray or grease it with a little olive oil.
  • Stuff each of the cooked shells with about 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture. You want them to be very full and almost overflowing with the tasty Italian cheese blend. Place the stuffed shells in the prepared baking dish, lining them up across the pan.
  • Pour the meat sauce over the jumbo stuffed shells in the pan, covering them completely in the sauce.
  • Sprinkle the shells with the remaining mozzarella cheese then bake for about 40 minutes. when fully baked, the cheese will be melted on top of the shells and be slightly golden brown.
  • Let the meat stuffed shells cool for about 5-10 minutes then serve while warm. Sprinkle with a little chopped fresh basil or parsley as a nice garnish.
Keyword Pasta, Ragù, Stuffed Shells

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the food images displayed on this website are for illustrative purposes only. They do not represent the actual dishes or presentations you might achieve when following our recipes. While we strive to inspire your culinary journey, the appearance of your dishes may vary.

Frequent Asked Questions

If you have a tray of premade stuffed shells with meat, you can quickly heat it up in the oven. Cover the pan with aluminum foil then place it in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Make sure to keep the tray covered as it heats so the filled shells do not dry out.

Most brands of dried pasta shells need to be boiled for about 9 minutes. The package of jumbo shells should give the exact cooking times right on the box. Just be sure to cook shells until they are al dente. You do not want to over cook them or they may start to fall apart!

You can use almost any type of ground meat to make stuffed shells. Our recipe uses ground beef to add flavor to the spaghetti sauce but you can also use ground turkey, ground pork, Italian sausage or even ground chicken. A mix of ground meat is always a good idea to give any stuffed shell recipes the most complex flavors possible.

Manicotti and stuffed shells are very similar. Both are types of cooked pasta that are stuffed with a ricotta filling. The difference lies in the type of noodles. Manicotti is made with long, tube shaped noodles that are often thin and smooth. Stuffed shells are made with jumbo pasta shells that have a textured outside. The noodles may be different but the cheese filling, spaghetti sauce and cooked meat are almost identical!

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