Stuffed Shells with Meat are baked casserole-style with meat sauce, plenty of cheese, and tons of Italian flavor. This easy favorite recipe is perfect for any night of the week. These perfect cheese and meat stuffed shells are perfect for any night of the week.
What’s in this Stuffed Shells Recipe with Meat?
It’s hard to go wrong with Italian food. Pasta, cheese, and sauce are always a winning combination in my mind! These stuffed shells with meat and cheese are no exception – they’re easy, delicious, and always a crowd-pleaser.
- Ground Chuck: The perfect meat for our sauce. It’s got just the right balance of fat, and it adds so much flavor.
- Olive Oil: Helps the onion and garlic cook without burning.
- Onion + Garlic: Add an earthy and slightly sweet flavor to the meat sauce.
- Marinara Sauce: You can make your own or use store-bought to save time.
- Egg: Binds the filling together.
- Cheese: A mixture of small curd cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese creates a rich, creamy, and cheesy filling for our shells.
- Jumbo Shells: The perfect size for stuffing! Make sure to cook yours just to al dente according to the package. If overcooked, they may fall apart.
Pro Tip: To make vegetarian stuffed shells, simply omit the meat from the sauce.
Variations on Stuffed Shells with Ground Beef
There are so many ways to change up these Italian stuffed shells. You can swap some or all of the ground beef for Italian sausage. Try adding spinach, sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, or caramelized onions to the filling for a bit more flavor. Or add some pesto to the cheese mixture!
Pasta shells are traditionally known as “Conchiglie,” but most brands label them as jumbo shells.
Before assembling and baking the stuffed pasta shells, boil the pasta shells to al dente. Cook them according to the package instructions – about 9 minutes. If you want to prepare the pasta shells ahead of time, keep them in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days. When ready to bake the shells, simply stuff them, bake, and serve.
These shells can turn watery due to excess moisture on the pasta or in the filling. This is why we drain the cooked shells on a baking sheet!
Make sure to use a large enough pot when boiling the shells so that they have room to move around, and don’t let them touch on the baking sheet as they cool and drain!
If your shells are hard, chances are you did not cook them for long enough. You want to make sure the shells are al dente but not undercooked. You may wish to add an extra shell to the pot to test for doneness.
You can freeze it at either point! If you freeze before baking, bake directly from frozen at 350°F for about an hour. If you freeze after baking, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes!
How to Store and Reheat
Store leftover stuffed shells with meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes or in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through.
How to Freeze
These stuffed shells with meat can be frozen both before and after baking. Tightly wrap the pan in 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of aluminum foil for up to 3 months. If you freeze before baking, bake directly from frozen at 350°F for about an hour (remove the plastic wrap first!). If you freeze after baking, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating as described above.
Just like all casseroles, these stuffed shells with ground beef can be a meal all on their own. It’s a hearty, filling, and satisfying dish! That said, I still like to serve mine with a few sides, like Homemade Garlic Bread, Texas Toast Garlic Cheese Bread, Classic Caesar Salad, Kale Caesar Salad, or Roasted Vegetables.
“I can’t get enough of this meal! We’ll be making this weekly. It’s that delicious! Thank you so much.” – Jen