With a homemade tomato sauce and ricotta cheese filling, these Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells are easy, cheesy and filling! Serve with garlic bread for the ultimate comfort food dinner!
Easy Stuffed Shells with Meat
These Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells definitely fall into the “comfort food” category! There’s the hearty meat and tomato sauce, the jumbo pasta shells and an ooey, gooey cheese mixture.
While some may start with a canned spaghetti sauce for this recipe, I prefer to use unseasoned tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes and season them with dried herbs. The ground meat also infuses flavor throughout the sauce and the entire dish, plus it makes it a heartier meal.
Then you have the stuffed shells portion. The cheese mixture is made with not just one or two types of cheese but three! Ricotta cheese is the base, which is then combined with mozzarella and parmesan. Each type of cheese adds something to the recipe, so I don’t recommend skipping any of them.
In the end, you get a stuffed shell casserole that’s ready to be enjoyed straight from the oven in under an hour. Pair with a fresh side salad and some garlic bread and you have one delicious dinner!
What You’ll Need
Italian stuffed shells are made with a seasoned tomato sauce base and lots of cheese! Just 10 ingredients in total.
- Pasta shells – You’ll want to use jumbo pasta shells as they are made for stuffing.
- Olive oil – For sautéing the onion and garlic.
- Diced yellow onion – Adds flavor.
- Garlic – For flavor.
- Ground chuck – Ground chuck has a higher fat percentage than ground beef, which adds optimal flavor.
- Tomato sauce – You can also use crushed tomatoes.
- Seasonings – I use dried oregano or dried Italian seasoning depending on what I have, as well as dried parsley and salt.
- Cheese – The cheesy stuffed shells filling is made with a combination of ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
- Egg – Helps to hold the cheese mixture together.
- Fresh basil – Added as a garnish at the end.
How to Make Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
Ricotta stuffed shells are incredibly easy to make, even making the tasty meat sauce from scratch! Including baking time, dinner will be ready in under an hour!
- Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Cook the shells. Cook the pasta shells according to package instructions. Drain and pat the noodles dry, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Make the meat sauce. Cook onions and garlic until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the ground chuck and cook until no longer pink. Drain liquid fat if needed. Add the tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer on low.
- Prepare the cheese mixture. Mix together the ricottta, egg, remaining oregano, mozzarella and parmesan. Stuff each shell with the cheese mixture.
- Assemble the stuffed shells. Spread half of the tomato and meat sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Gently add the stuffed shells on top. Spoon the remaining tomato sauce on top of the shells and then top with cheese.
- Bake. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes so the cheese melts.
- Cool and serve. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Garnish with basil and serve warm.
Tips for Success
For the best Italian stuffed shells, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Easily stuff the shells. Place cheese mixture in a gallon size plastic Ziploc storage bag. Twist the top closed (like a piping bag) and snip the corner for easy stuffing.
- Don’t overstuff the shells. As tempting as it is to cram as much cheese filling into the shells as possible, I’ve found that about 1 1/2 tablespoons is the perfect amount per shell.
- Use 80/20 ground beef. If you can’t find ground chuck, opt for 80/20 ground beef. You don’t want a lean ground beef for this recipe because you really want that extra flavor in the tomato sauce.
- Make it vegetarian. If you want vegetarian stuffed shells, just omit the ground beef from the recipe. You may want to add some extra seasonings to the tomato sauce for more flavor.
Enjoy these beefy Italian stuffed shells warm from the oven, when the cheese is melty and gooey. I love to serve these stuffed shells with a simple side salad made from fresh greens and whatever vegetables I have on hand.
And, of course, there’s nothing better to soak up every last drop of the cheesy, saucy goodness than some homemade garlic bread! If you don’t have time to make garlic bread, any baguette will do.
How to Store Leftovers
Leftover Italian stuffed shells should be covered or transferred to an airtight container then placed in the fridge. They’ll last in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Reheat in the oven at 350F until warmed through or just pop in the microwave.
Can I Freeze Homemade Stuffed Shells?
Stuffed shells with meat sauce are a great freezer meal! You can even turn them into a make-ahead meal by preparing them in a foil baking pan. Just follow the instructions as directed above, until baking. Instead of baking, cover with foil and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, allow to thaw and reheat for 30-45 minutes or bake from frozen for approximately 60-90 minutes.Print
With a homemade tomato sauce and ricotta cheese filling, these Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells are easy, cheesy and filling. Serve with garlic bread for the ultimate comfort food dinner.
- 20 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb ground chuck
- 1 (28 oz) can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried oregano or dried italian seasoning mix, divided
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, divided
- Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Light spray a large baking dish (3 quart) with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Cook the shells according to package instructions, roughly 9 minutes. Drain and pat the noodles dry. Place the separated cooked shells on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan, drizzle olive oil. Add the onions and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until warm. Add the minced garlic and continue to cook until onion is translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Drain any liquid fat, if needed.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, parsley and salt. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, prepare the cheese mixture. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, remaining teaspoon of oregano, 1 cup mozzarella, and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Stuff each individual shell with 1 ½ tablespoons of cheese mixture. (Tip: Place cheese mixture in a gallon size plastic Ziploc storage bag. Twist the top closed (like a piping bag) and snip the corner for easy stuffing).
- Add half of the tomato sauce mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly on the bottom. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the tomato sauce.
- Gently spoon the remaining tomato sauce around the shells, then top with the cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes so the cheese can finish melting.
- Remove the cooked stuffed shells from the oven and cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve warm.
Keywords: Italian meat stuffed shells, ricotta stuffed shells, stuffed shells with meat