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by Lisa Longley
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by Lisa Longley
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Stuffed shells with meat are the ultimate comfort food, absolutely delicious. These can be made ahead and frozen. They are the perfect dinner recipe.
Last year I gave you my recipe for stuffed shells after getting lots of requests for recipes without meat. It was a favorite growing up in my vegetarian household and often served as the main dish on holidays in place of a baked ham or prime rib.
Every single time I share it on social media, someone asks my why I didn’t include any meat. So I’m here today with the meat version. It is just as delicious as its vegetarian cousin with that extra punch of protein.
This great dinner recipe makes for perfect comfort food and gets all the thumbs up from my kiddos. Even better, you can make this recipe the night before. You can also make it far in advance and freeze it, taking it right from the freezer to your hot preheated oven. This is going to be a huge hit with your whole family.
How to Make Stuffed Shells With Meat
This recipe for stuffed shells with meat comes together in a few easy steps and results in a hearty and flavorful meal your whole family will love. Here is a brief overview of how to make it. For the full recipe and all of the ingredients and measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
- Cook the shells. See my tips below for the very best cooked pasta. While your pasta is cooking, also cook your sausage.
- Make the filling. Mix together the cooked sausage, egg, ricotta cheese, one cup of mozzarella cheese, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and black pepper.
- Fill the shells. Spoon the filling into the cooked shells. You may have some filling left over.
- Put it together and bake. Coat the bottom of the baking dish with some sauce and then place the stuffed pasta shells, seam side up, in the pan. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Then bake.
While cooking pasta may seem really simple, there are a few things that can make it perfect. Follow these tips when making your stuffed shells recipe:
- Use plenty of water.We are going to be cooking quite a few of the giant shells so you want to use between 4 and 6 quarts (16 to 24 cups) of water.
- Bring the water to a raging boil.You should see really big bubbles in the pot before you add the uncooked shells.
- Cook all of the shells.We are only using 35, but I like to cook the whole box because it is easier and if any rip, I have backups. Plus my kids like to munch on the extras.
- Salt the water.When you add the uncooked pasta to the water, add a teaspoon of kosher salt with it.
- Cook the pasta for the time indicated on the box.Since this is going in the oven after boiling, you want to aim for the lower end of the cooking time if there is a range.
Using Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
If you have the time, I highly recommend you make my homemadespaghetti saucefor this stuffed shells recipe with meat. It only takes 25 minutes and uses canned tomatoes. It works great to make the sauce the night before so it is ready to go when you want to make your shells.
Though the recipe calls for diced and crushed tomatoes, I encourage you to use just crushed for this recipe. While you only need four cups of sauce and this recipe makes six, I encourage you to make the whole recipe so that the ratio of ingredients is correct and so you get to have extra.
If you don’t have time to make homemade sauce, grab a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce. You will still love these stuffed pasta shells.
Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
This easy homemade spaghetti sauce recipe comes together in about 25 minutes from scratch!
Shredding your cheese adds just a few extra minutes to your prep time but will truly make a difference in how the recipe turns out. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in preservatives that help it hold its shape, but make it difficult to melt. By shredding your own cheese from a block, you ensure that the cheese is perfectly melted and delicious.
I absolutely love this grater. It has been in our kitchen for over a decade. It has four sizes of grating, and comes with this grate container that fits right on the bottom for mess-free grating.
Finding Jumbo Shells
At the moment, finding jumbo shells to make stuffed shells can be really tricky. We have been keeping an eye out every time we go to the store (whether these are on the menu or not) and grabbing a box when we see them. Another great option is Amazon. They seem to always have them in stock.
Jumbo Stuffed Shells
This is a set of 12 boxes, but they have such a long shelf life, it is worth it to us. They come out to roughly $3 a box.
How Long to Bake Stuffed Shells
These stuffed pasta shells bake for just 35 minutes in total. Bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes covered with foil, and an additional 5 minutes without foil to give the cheese just enough time and heat to get bubbly.
Making Stuffed Shells Ahead
These stuffed shells with meat can be made up to 24 hours in advance. To make them ahead, assemble them following the recipe through step four. Then cover them and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them. Keep in mind that because they are coming out of a cold refrigerator, you are going to want to bake them for 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Freezing Stuffed Shells with Meat
To freeze this stuffed shells recipe, prepare it in a disposable baking dish. This will allow you to take them right from the cold freezer to the hot oven without worrying about the baking dish cracking or shattering in the oven.
Make the shells through step four. Cover with aluminum foil, then wrap three times with plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to three months. When you are ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, keep the shells covered, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Can I make this gluten free?
Yes! There are several gluten-free shells on the market. Since there is no other source of gluten in this recipe, this is an easy one to make gluten-free.
Can I replace the ricotta with cottage cheese?
While that is not my favorite swap, it is definitely an option if you don’t like ricotta or can’t find it. Cottage cheese will work as a replacement in this recipe.
Can I make this with ground beef?
Yes! If your family prefers ground beef to Italian sausage or that is what you have on hand, you can use one pound of cooked ground beef instead of the Italian sausage. You could also use ground turkey. You might want to consider adding some Italian Seasoning since you will lose a little flavor with that swap; one or two teaspoons would be perfect while the meat cooks.
Other Stuffed Shells Variations
Try these other stuffed shell recipes that take spins on this one. They each have their own delicious flavor packed into shells that your family will love.
- Stuffed Shells is a vegetarian pasta recipe loaded with cheese and a delicious sauce.
- Once you make Taco Stuffed Shells, your family will request them regularly. It is your favorite part of tacos stuffed into pasta shells.
- These Chicken Stuffed Shells are filled to the brim with chicken, broccoli, and cheese and then smothered in a rich garlic Alfredo sauce.
What to Serve with Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Air Fryer Green Beans
- Garlic Bread
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Caesar Salad
If you try this recipe for stuffed shells with meat or any of my others, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!
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Stuffed Shells with Meat
Serves: 35 shells
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
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- 35 jumbo shells see my notes in the post for how to cook them and how to find jumbo shells
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage cooked, broken up, and drained of fat
- 1 large egg
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded and divided
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated and divided
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt, cut this to 1/2 a teaspoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 28 ounces spaghetti sauce divided (read here about using homemade sauce)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Cook the shells according to package instructions. Make sure the water is at a full boil before you put in the uncooked shells. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the water and set a timer so that the pasta is drained just before it is al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine the cooked sausage, egg, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and black pepper. Spoon the mixture into the shells.
Pour 1 cup of sauce onto the prepared casserole dish to coat the bottom. Place the filled shells, seam side up, in the pan. Top with the remaining sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. You may have some filling left over. We typically stuff the extra shells and cook them in a smaller casserole dish.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Serve, and enjoy.
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Main Course
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Stuffed Shells with Meat
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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.
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Why do stuffed shells get watery? ›
If you cook the shells too long, they'll tear when you try to stuff them, and the pasta will end up mushy, since it continues to cook as the stuffed shells bake. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shells from boiling water and transfer to a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking.Is the filling same for manicotti as stuffed shells? ›
Manicotti translates to “little muffs”. The pasta used to make this dish is shaped like a large tube. The tubes are usually filled a mixture of cheeses and sometimes ground meat. A bit different, stuffed shells are made with conchiglie pasta.What are stuffed shells called? ›
The pasta called conchiglioni, usually marketed as “jumbo shells” here in the US, are filled with a ricotta cream enriched with mozzarella, napped with a simple marinara sauce and topped with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan before being baked in a hot oven.How many stuffed shells is a serving? ›
|For a Serving Size of 2 pieces (113g)|
|How many calories are in Stuffed Shells? Amount of calories in Stuffed Shells: Calories 180||Calories from Fat 36 (20%)|
|% Daily Value *|
|How much fat is in Stuffed Shells? Amount of fat in Stuffed Shells: Total Fat 4g||-|
Tightly cover the uncooked stuffed shells with foil, and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days.Do you have to thaw frozen stuffed shells before baking? ›
There is no need to thaw your frozen stuffed shells. Store bought frozen shells most often state that you cook them frozen. If you are cooking homemade stuffed shells, it is advised to thaw them in the refrigerator a day in advance to ensure even baking and shorter cooking time.How do you thicken ricotta cheese for stuffed shells? ›
Then once thawed, pour off and discard any excess water or liquid. If the ricotta seems soupy, you can thicken it up by adding some parmesan cheese. Or if you plan to cook it as a filling, you can add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch per 15 ounces of ricotta and mix it thoroughly before cooking.Do you freeze stuffed shells before or after baking? ›
- Freezing- Make according to directions and then freeze before baking. Cover the stuffed shells with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. ...
- Preparing after Freezer- Remove the plastic wrap from the frozen shells and then re-cover with foil.
You can do that! We know it sounds weird, but some lasagna recipes call for sour cream instead of ricotta. It actually makes for a moist, creamy, dreamy pasta night. Since ricotta is so mild, you won't even notice the missing ingredient, but if you'd like, you can stir some shredded Parmesan into your sour cream.What is this Italian stuffed pasta called? ›
Ravioli. This is the most well-known stuffed pasta. The singular form is “raviolo” and they are usually made by putting the filling between two sheets of pasta (versus using one piece of pasta and folding it over). The most traditional filling is cheese-based, and it varies in its specifics from region to region.
Which three shapes of pasta are most suitable for filling? ›
Serve filled pasta shapes such as ravioli, tortellini and cappelletti as the filling contains lots of flavour, these are traditionally served with a light butter or oil sauce.Are stuffed shells good for you? ›
Stuffed shell is ranked as Grade B plus. It contains good amounts of vitamins and protein and some minerals. Stuffed Shell is a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. It also contains high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C.How many shells are in a box of stuffed shells? ›
Note: A cookie scoop works well for filling shells and distributing stuffing evenly between them. Also, note that a box of jumbo shells contains approximately 46 shells.How many jumbo shells is 1lb? ›
A pound of "jumbo" pasta shells contains about 36.How many stuffed shells in a box of pastosa? ›
Pastosa Shells and Sauce. THE PASTOSA RAVIOLI STUFFED SHELLS AND SAUCE BOX INCLUDES: 6 boxes of Pastosa 12 ct. Cheese Stuffed Shells.Are stuffed shells high in carbs? ›
Fresh & Easy Ricotta Stuffed Shells (2 shella) contains 25g total carbs, 23g net carbs, 12g fat, 14g protein, and 260 calories.What is the best way to reheat stuffed shells? ›
To reheat non-casserole baked pasta dishes, such as stuffed jumbo shells, place the shells in an oven-safe dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 375 degrees until the shells' internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.Do stuffed shells reheat well? ›
In Conclusion. Stuffed shells are a classic Italian dish that can be made ahead of time and reheated when you're ready to eat.Can I leave stuffed shells out overnight? ›
Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked pasta shells should be discarded if left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. To further extend the shelf life of cooked pasta shells, freeze them; freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.Can you freeze stuffed shells after they are cooked? ›
Can you freeze stuffed shells? Absolutely! This recipe can either be baked right away and serve it, stick it right into the freezer uncooked, or prebake the dish and then freeze it.
Can you freeze ricotta cheese with egg in it? ›
Yes! Say you've made a ravioli filling with ricotta cheese and other ingredients like Parmesan cheese, eggs and herbs, it is perfectly fine to freeze it. On thawing, excess liquid may need to be drained away but otherwise it will be good.Can I refreeze thawed stuffed shells? ›
Information. Yes, it is safe to refreeze any food remaining after reheating previously frozen leftovers to the safe temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.Do you add an egg to ricotta and mixture? ›
Ricotta cheese: A creamy, somewhat grainy soft cheese, ricotta is similar to cottage cheese, but without the lumps. Egg: You'll add an egg to the ricotta cheese mixture to bind it together.Should you drain ricotta cheese? ›
Draining the excess moisture from ricotta is an important step, especially before using it in baked goods. Soggy cheese makes for heavy pie crusts and cakes. To drain properly, place a cheesecloth-lined, fine-mesh strainer over a bowl.Why is my ricotta not creamy? ›
If ricotta is made solely with whey, which is actually the traditional way of making ricotta, there's less fat in the final product, and therefore a less smooth texture. That's one reason. Another way to create a sub-par ricotta is by heating the milk too quickly during cheesemaking.How long does it take for stuffed shells to go bad? ›
Sprinkle some Mozzarella cheese, oregano, and parsley over each shell and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Leftover shells should be covered air-tight and refrigerated. Cooked stuffed shells will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator.How long can stuffed shells sit out at room temperature? ›
Serve: Ricotta Stuffed Shells can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours before they should be refrigerated. Store: Sealed in an airtight container, Stuffed Shells will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees, adding a little marinara sauce if needed.How do you keep stuffed shells from sticking together? ›
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour in the jumbo shells and stir immediately to prevent sticking. Since the pasta will finish cooking in the oven, you only need to boil the shells for a fraction of the time given in the instructions on the box.Can I use mozzarella instead of ricotta? ›
Ricotta is frequently used in Italian cuisine, so it makes sense that other types of Italian cheeses, including parmesan, mascarpone, and mozzarella, can be great substitutes.What is a cheaper alternative to ricotta? ›
Cottage cheese: As far as ricotta substitutes go, light and mild cottage cheese is your best bet. In fact, some people prefer to use cottage cheese because it has a similar flavor and fewer calories.
How do you make store bought ricotta more creamy? ›
When ricotta is whipped, the curds are broken up and the ricotta loses its crumbly, chalky texture, becoming much smoother and creamier. The razor-sharp blades of a blender or food processor not only make the texture more homogenous and spreadable but also remove some of the air, making it denser.What is pasta filled with meat called? ›
Tortellini are pasta originally from the Italian region of Emilia (in particular Bologna and Modena). Traditionally they are stuffed with a mix of meat (pork loin, raw prosciutto, mortadella), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg and nutmeg and served in capon broth (in brodo di cappone).What is Scooby Doo pasta in Italian? ›
Cavatappi is a macaroni curved in an s-shape tube. It has been bestowed with many names including cellentani, spirali, tortiglione, or serpentini. Vernacular names of this pasta are “scoobi doo” and “double elbows”.What are the little ears in Italian pasta? ›
Orecchiette, translated as “little ears” in Italian, is a small, ear-shaped pasta that originated in southern Italy.Which pasta is usually square shaped and filled with meat? ›
Ravioli are square and tortellini are ring shaped, but both make for hearty meals and are filled with cheese, meat, and more.What are little balls of pasta called? ›
Fregola (traditionally known in Italy as fregula) is the common term for a specific type of Italian pasta shaped like small pearls or beads. It is made with semolina flour, water, and salt. The dough is rolled into small balls, which are then baked in an oven.What is the ring shaped pasta stuffed with cheese or meat called? ›
Tortellini is a ring shaped stuffed pasta that is typically filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. Tortelloni is a larger version of Tortellini.What is the most eaten pasta shape? ›
1. Spaghetti. Perhaps one of the most popular pasta types in the world, spaghetti consists of long, thin noodles which can be paired with a wide variety of sauces. Possibly the most well known dish is Spaghetti Bolognese, where pasta is paired with meat in a marinara sauce.Which pasta absorbs the most sauce? ›
Flat Long Noodles Like Fettuccine, Linguine, Tagliatelle and Pappardelle. Flat ribbon-like pasta is best paired with rich or creamy sauces, as the surface area of the pasta's flat shape enables it to stand up against the heft of a rich sauce.What is the most Recognisable filled pasta type? ›
Possibly the most recognisable filled pasta type, ravioli are named after the Italian term 'riavvolgere' meaning “to wrap.” Ravioli have been a staple of Italian cuisine since the 14th century. One of the earliest recipes includes chopped green herbs, fresh cheese, and egg - with the ravioli then simmered in broth.
How many stuffed shells is a serving size? ›
How many Stuffed Pasta Shells Per Person? I generally assume about 2-3 shells per person. Larger appetites might like 4, while smaller eaters may prefer 2. This recipe yields about 20-22 stuffed shells with a hearty meat sauce, and it typically feeds about 6-8 people.Why is there a shortage of large pasta shells? ›
Just a few years ago, stress-indused baking at the height of the pandemic resulted in a national wheat and yeast shortage.Can you use manicotti instead of shells? ›
Manicotti is a long, large, tubular pasta that is usually cooked and stuffed with a ricotta cheese filling similar to this classic stuffed shells recipe. Baked, cheese-stuffed manicotti is one of the best comfort foods, and it's also perfect for making ahead to enjoy on a busy weeknight!How long does it take to cook pasta shells? ›
For authentic "al dente" pasta, boil uncovered, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes. For more tender pasta, boil an additional 1 minute.What do you eat with ricotta shells? ›
I often serve these stuffed shells with my Homemade Caesar Salad, but my Arugula Salad, Beet Salad, or Simple Green Salad would also pair well with this recipe. And when it comes to bread, you really can't go wrong! Stick with a crusty loaf, or make rosemary focaccia, garlic knots, or dinner rolls. Enjoy!How long are stuffed shells good? ›
Sprinkle some Mozzarella cheese, oregano, and parsley over each shell and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Leftover shells should be covered air-tight and refrigerated. Cooked stuffed shells will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator.What does adding egg to ricotta do? ›
Adding an egg helps to bind the ricotta filling, giving it a bit more body. Layer your baking dish in this order: sauce, noodles cheese.What does ricotta do for your body? ›
In addition to providing a good amount of protein in each serving, ricotta cheese nutrition is high in calcium, selenium and phosphorus as well. Thanks to the ricotta cheese nutrition profile, this tasty ingredient could potentially help boost bone health, enhance weight loss and lower blood pressure.Do you melt ricotta cheese? ›
In other words, the cheese doesn't melt. So ricotta falls in the same category as paneer, halloumi, queso blanco and other cheeses that can be heated without melting. This is why ricotta is such a fine choice for lasagna, stuffed shells, ravioli and cheesecake. It heats wonderfully, but doesn't reduce to a pool of goo.What is meat manicotti called? ›
The authentic Italian dish cannelloni (more commonly called "manicotti" in the U.S.) is made up of tube-shaped pasta filled with either meat or vegetables and topped with a creamy white béchamel sauce (or besciamella as it is known in Italian).
What do Italians eat with manicotti? ›
- Crispy Eggplant. – What is this? ...
- Italian Chopped Salad. – ...
- Tomato Basil Soup. – ...
- Crispy Green Beans with Toasted Almonds. – ...
- Grilled Chicken Skewers. – ...
- Creamy Orzo Salad. – ...
- Lemon Pepper Shrimp. – ...
- Oven Baked Barbeque Ribs. –
Red peppers pack the most nutrition, because they've been on the vine longest. Green peppers are harvested earlier before they have a chance to turn yellow, orange, and then red. Compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 2 times more vitamin C.Should I boil peppers before stuffing them? ›
Some stuffed pepper recipes call for boiling your peppers before baking. Others don't pre-cook them and they turn out too crunchy. Our research found that pre-baking the peppers for 30 minutes makes them perfectly tender! Once you stuff them, you'll need 20 minutes in the hot even to get the cheese nice and melty.What alcohol goes with stuffed peppers? ›
Zinfandel, Malbec and Merlot – Red wines with a hint of sweetness to them tend to pair best with stuffed peppers.Do I thaw stuffed shells before baking? ›
No need to defrost the stuffed shells before baking. Simply remove any plastic wrap on the stuffed shells and then replace the alluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degreee oven for 45-60 minutes until the pasta bake is bubbling and the cheese is melted on top.Does Olive Garden have stuffed shells? ›
The stuffed shells at Olive Garden are one of my favorite vegetarian options on the menu. Keep in mind that it's only considered vegetarian for those who consume dairy. The dish is not vegan because it contains quite a bit of dairy between all the cheese and the alfredo sauce.