Looking for an easy and delicious dinner? These easy Stuffed Shells are filled with a three cheese filling and baked in a meat sauce. You can even freeze this stuffed shells recipe to make meal prep easier.
Why This Works
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.
- The stuffed shells with meat are easy to make.
- The cheesy pasta tastes delicious.
- Can be made ahead of time and frozen for later.
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 - 1 pound cooked and drained.
- Veggies - A mixture of onions, green peppers, and garlic gives the sauce flavor.
- Marinara Sauce - Use a jar of store bought sauce to save time.
For the Cheese Filling
- Ricotta Cheese - One whole container creates the base for the cheese mixture.
- Parmesan Cheese - We usually use the already grated cheese in the bottle.
- Shredded Cheese - Use an Italian cheese blend if you can find it. Mozzarella is fine too.
- Egg - One large egg will help bind the cheeses together.
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic & Fresh Basil - Adds flavor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bake and Enjoy
- Top the stuffed shells with more shredded cheese.
- Bake the pasta dish until melted and bubbly.
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.
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.
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
- Creamy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
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*The post for Stuffed Shells was first published March 10, 2020. The post was updated and republished July 27, 2021.