Stuffed Shells with Meat is the answer to the “what’s for dinner?” question that everyone will love! You can even freeze this stuffed shells recipe to make meal prep easier.
Stuffed Pasta Shells
Pasta will always be my true love for dinner. Of course, any kind of pasta dinner makes me happy, but stuffed pasta really makes me smile. And the cheesier the dish is, the better!
These stuffed shells can be ready in less than an hour. Add a side salad and some bread for an easy comforting dinner that everyone will love.
We love these stuffed shells with meat because they are easy to make, taste delicious, and can be made ahead of time if needed.
Ingredients for Stuffed Shells with Meat
Jumbo ricotta stuffed shells are a delicious comfort food dinner. The cheesy filling is made up of three different types of cheeses and some fresh basil and garlic.
For the Pasta
- Jumbo Pasta Shells – cook the entire box of shells so you have extras in case some break.
For the Meat Sauce
- Ground Beef – cooked and drained
- Veggies – onions, green peppers, garlic
- Marinara Sauce – use a jar of store bought sauce to save time
- Salt & Pepper – to taste
For the Cheese Filling
- Ricotta Cheese – one whole container
- Parmesan Cheese – grated
- Shredded Cheese – use an Italian cheese blend if you can find it.
- Egg – one large will help bind the cheese together
- Garlic & Fresh Basil – adds flavor
- Salt & Pepper – to taste
How to make Stuffed Shells
These easy stuffed shells can be ready in no time at all. This is such a great comfort food for family dinners, yet it is fancy enough to serve guests.
Step One: Cook the Pasta Shells
- Cook the jumbo shells according to the package directions. Undercook them by 1-2 minutes because they will continue to cook in the oven later.
- Drain and lay them on a wire rack to cool.
Step Two: Make the Meat Sauce
- Cook the hamburger in a large skillet with diced onions and peppers until cooked through. Pour off the excess grease.
- Stir minced garlic and pasta sauce into the cooked meat. Spread 1 cup on the bottom of a baking dish.
Step Three: Make a Cheese Filling
- Stir together ricotta, parmesan, shredded cheese, egg, and spices.
- Fill cooled pasta shells with the cheese mixture.
- Place the stuffed shells in a baking dish and spoon the rest of the sauce around them.
Step Four: Bake
- Top the stuffed shells with more shredded cheese.
- Bake the pasta dish until melted and bubbly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can stuffed shells be made ahead of time?
Yes, they can be made and assembled up to 12 hours ahead of time. Make and stuff the shells and place them in a covered container in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to bake, place them in a pan with the meat sauce and cover with shredded cheese. You may need to add an additional 10-15 minutes to the bake time, since you are baking chilled pasta.
How long do stuffed shells with meat last?
Baked stuffed shells will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. They are easy to reheat in the microwave making this a great meal prep recipe.
Want to make this a meatless meal?
Leave out the ground beef and just add sauce to the shells. You can also add chopped spinach to the sauce to add more veggies to the pasta dish.
How to Freeze Stuffed Shells
These classic stuffed shells are a great freezer meal to make and share with others. There are two different ways you can freeze these stuffed pasta shells.
Freezing Shells without Sauce:
- Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture. Place the shells on a parchment lined tray and freeze for an hour or two, then place the frozen shells in a freezer bag.
- To cook, place the frozen shells in a pan with pasta sauce and cheese and bake. They will need to bake about 10-15 minutes longer because they are frozen.
Freezing Shells with Sauce:
- Make the shells and place them in a disposable aluminum pan with the meat sauce and cheese. Do not bake it!
- Cover the pan with a layer of plastic wrap and then tightly wrap with foil. Freeze for 2-3 months.
- You can bake the frozen shells, or you can thaw them overnight in the fridge first.
- Remove the inner layer of plastic wrap before baking. The frozen shells with sauce will need to bake about 50-60 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook another 10-15 minutes.
Make it a Full Meal
More Pasta Recipes
- Chicken Supreme Casserole
- Three Cheese Mac and Cheese
- Spinach Artichoke Chicken Pasta
- Buffalo Chicken Pasta
- Cheesy Italian Pasta
- Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
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- 1 box jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup diced onions
- 1 cup diced green pepper
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 - 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the Filling
- 1 - 15 ounce container ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups shredded Italian cheese, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 dish with nonstick spray.
- Cook pasta shells according to box directions. Drain water and place shells on a wire rack so they do not stick together.
- Cook the ground beef with the onion and peppers until done. Drain grease.
- Stir in the garlic and sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup sauce in bottom of prepared dish.
- Stir together the ricotta, parmesan, 2 cups shredded cheese, egg, basil, and salt and pepper.
- Fill 24 cooked pasta shells with cheese mixture. Place filled shells in pan.
- Spoon the remaining meat sauce around the shells. Top with the remaining shredded cheese and cover with foil. Bake 25 minutes, remove foil, and broil 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Without Sauce: Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture. Place the shells on a parchment lined tray and freeze for an hour or two, then place the frozen shells in a freezer bag.
To cook, place the frozen shells in a pan with sauce and cheese and bake. They will need to bake about 10-15 minutes longer because they are frozen.
With Sauce: Freezing the stuffed shells in sauce is even easier. Make the shells and place them in an aluminum pan with the sauce and cheese. Do not bake it. Cover the pan with a layer of plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for 2-3 months. You can bake it frozen, or you can thaw it overnight in the fridge first.
Make sure you remove the inner layer of plastic wrap BEFORE baking. The frozen shells and sauce will need to bake about 50-60 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook another 10-15 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 533Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 1063mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 37g
*The post for Stuffed Shells was first published March 10, 2020. The post was updated and republished July 27, 2021.