This recipe for Lasagna Stuffed Shells is simply the best. Large pasta shells that are filled with a cheesy ricotta and spinach filling. Top everything off with your favorite pasta sauce and you’re good to go! Perfect for busy weeknights or as a go-to freezer meal!
Why you’ll love these Easy Stuffed Shells
- Minimal Ingredients: Less than 10 ingredients! That means you can have this recipe made in a jiff.
- Freezer Friendly: This recipe can be made in advance and frozen for up to three months.
- Big Flavor: Italian stuffed shells with meat and ricotta cheese – you cannot get more flavorful.
This recipe for lasagna stuffed shells is my FAVORITE. It has everything you could ever want in a comfort food dish and checks all of the boxes. And did I mention it is easy.
Easy recipes are coveted in my household. The last thing I want to do after a long day of work is come home and spend hours in the kitchen. This one takes a whopping 30 minutes to whip up. I always make a double batch so we can have an extra pan in the freezer. Perfect to pull out on nights when I don’t want to cook!
What you’ll need for this Stuffed Shells Recipe With Meat
- Jumbo pasta shells: You can find these for around $1 in the pasta aisle. Large shells give you the perfect holder for the delicious filling.
- Ricotta: Not a fan of ricotta? You can substitute cottage cheese. Although you won’t get the same texture.
- Cheese: Use fresh mozzarella. When you fresh grate cheese it melts beautifully and has a wonderful soft texture. Pre-shredded cheese does not tend to melt quite as well. With the fresh version you get that ooey gooey melted cheese that you always see in restaurants.
- Egg: The binding agent for the filling. An egg will help to hold everything together.
- Spinach: Optional, but delicious. I always have a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer. It’s around $1 and the perfect way to add some veggies to many meals.
- Meat: Ground beef or Italian sausage work for this recipe. We’ve even, in a pinch, substituted spicy breakfast sausage.
- Spaghetti Sauce: Pick your favorite sauce. If I’m using store bought, I like Rao’s. That being said, you can always opt for this easy homemade version.
How to make Stuffed Shells with Meat
- PREP: Add water to a large pot with a sprinkle of salt. Bring to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions and strain. While the water is boiling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 9×9 inch dish and set aside for later.
- BROWN: Place the uncooked sausage into a medium skillet that has been preheated over medium heat. Cook and crumble until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the spaghetti sauce. for later.
- FILLING: Stir the ricotta, 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, parmesan, egg and spinach in with the meat mixture.
- FILL: Spoon a heaping tablespoon or two of the filling into each cooked shell, placing each into the sauce lined baking dish. Continue until all of the shells are filled. It’s ok to squish them together.
- BAKE: Once filled, spread the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce over the shells and generously sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional ten minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
How to serve Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Meat
Arrange the stuffed shells on individual plates or a large serving platter. Make sure to place them with the open side facing up, allowing the filling to be visible.
What else do you eat with stuffed shells?
These stuffed shells are a filling and satisfying dish on their own, but you can enhance the meal by serving them with complimentary side dishes. Here are a few options to consider: garlic bread, side salad, roasted vegetables, or an antipasto platter.
Stuffed Shells Recipe Easy storage
If you have leftovers or want to store the shells in individual portions, place them in airtight containers or wrap them tightly with plastic wrap. This prevents them from drying out and helps maintain their shape.
Stuffed shells can be frozen for longer-term storage. Place the cooled shells in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Freeze them for about an hour until they firm up slightly. Then, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bags. Label the containers with the date for easy reference.
Can you freeze stuffed shells?
Yes! This recipe is so convenient to have on hand. Pull it out on a busy weeknight and you have a filling delicious dinner ready to go.
1. Follow the instructions above until just before baking. Cover securely with heavy duty foil or a freezer container.
2. Take your stuffed shells out of the freezer the day before you plan on cooking them. Let them slightly thaw in the refrigerator.
3. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Lasagna Stuffed Shells FAQs
Yes. You can prep this dish all the way through adding the cheese and covering with foil. Before you bake, place in the refrigerator and keep chilled until ready to serve. Bake as directed.
For this method, I do suggest adding more sauce.
Of course! Skip the meat and use my veggie packed pasta sauce, minus the beef! If you want to hide the veggies, simply use an immersion blender before adding to the shells.
The main difference between manicotti and stuffed shells lies in the shape of the pasta. Manicotti is made using large, tube-shaped pasta shells that are smooth and cylindrical in shape. On the other hand, stuffed shells are made using conchiglioni pasta, which are large pasta shells that are shaped like a seashell or conch shell, with ridges on the outside.
The number of jumbo shells in a box can vary depending on the brand and packaging. However, a standard box of jumbo pasta shells typically contains around 12 to 16 shells. It’s always a good idea to check the specific packaging or product label for the exact number of shells included in the box you are purchasing, as it may vary slightly between different brands and manufacturers.
The sauce plays a crucial role in adding moisture and flavor to the stuffed shells. If you use too little sauce or if it is not distributed evenly over the shells, it can result in dry or unevenly cooked shells. Make sure to spoon an adequate amount of sauce over the shells, ensuring that they are well-coated and surrounded by sauce.
Lasagna Stuffed Shells
- 20 jumbo pasta shells
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup frozen spinach thawed and drained
- 2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce
- 1 lb sausage or hamburger
- Bring a large bottle of water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain the noodles and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup of your tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×9 dish.
- Add the uncooked sausage to a hot pan and cook until browned. Stir in 1 cup of your tomato sauce and set aside.
- In a small bowl stir together the ricotta, 1/2 a cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and spinach. Stir the mixture in with your sausage.
- Spoon a hearty amount of the filling into each shell. Place into your prepared baking dish and continue until all are filled. Smother with the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce and generously sprinkle with mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional ten minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Follow the instructions above until just before baking. Cover securely with heavy duty foil or a freezer container.
- Take your stuffed shells out of the freezer the day before you plan on cooking them. Let them slightly thaw in the refrigerator.
- Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.