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Stuffed Shells With Meat | Joyful Healthy Eats


Baked Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Meat is a total swoon-worthy dinner that the whole family will be obsessed with. Jumbo pasta shells filled with a flavorful mixture of cheese and herbs, then covered in homemade Ragu sauce and baked to perfection!

We love to serve this with a Classic Caesar Salad and use my Wine Guide as a wine pairing match in heaven.

A white baking dish containing cheese stuffed shells with meat sauce and a drizzle of pesto

Easy Ricotta Stuffed Shells With Homemade Meat Sauce

Cheesy pasta dishes are among the greatest forms of comfort food, and this one is about to rock your socks off. Each jumbo shell is oozing with a heavenly mixture of ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and herbs. The homemade Ragu sauce ties it all together, adding tomatoey goodness and a boost of protein in the form of ground beef, bacon and Italian sausage. Every bite is pure satisfaction!

With endless customization options and the ability to stuff the shells in advance, this hearty entree is sure to earn a spot in your weekly dinner rotation. It’s a cheesy, meaty masterpiece that comes together with ease. If you’re making it on a night that you have company, you might want to print out a couple copies of the recipe card ahead of time – your guests won’t want to go home without one!

A spoon lifting a ricotta stuffed shell from a baking dish full of stuffed shells

What You’ll Need

This crave-worthy dish kicks things off with a super simple ingredient lineup. Remember to scroll down to the recipe card to see the associated amounts.

  • Jumbo Shells
  • Homemade Ragu Sauce [LINK]: Use the classic store-bought kind if you must, but I highly recommend whipping it up from scratch.
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese: I like to grate the parmesan myself, but you can opt for pre-grated cheese if preferred.
  • Garlic Powder
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Pesto Sauce (Optional): Or fresh basil, to garnish the dish.

How to Make Stuffed Pasta Shells With Meat

Before you make the ricotta filling and stuff your shells, you’ll have to cook the noodles until they’re al dente. In other words, they should be soft and chewy but still a bit firm.

Cook Pasta Shells: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over the stove. Salt the water to season it, then add in the jumbo pasta shells. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions until they’re al dente (approximately 12-14 minutes). Drain the water and set the noodles aside.

All of the ricotta filling ingredients inside of a mixing bowl with a spoon

Make Filling: Add the ricotta, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, parsley and oregano to a small bowl. Mix everything together and transfer the prepared filling to a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag well and cut off one of the corners. This will be used to pipe the filling into the shells. Set the filled piping tool aside.

Prep for Baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish with half of the homemade ragu sauce.

Stuff Shells: Working with one pasta shell at a time, fill each shell with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture by piping it in using the ziplock bag. Place the filled shells into the prepared baking dish and repeat until all of the shells (or all of the filling) is used up.

Top With Sauce & Mozzarella: Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the filled shells and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake: Bake the shells at 350°F for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Garnish & Serve: Top the dish with a drizzle of pesto sauce or a sprinkle of fresh basil if desired, then serve it warm.

Baked stuffed shells with meat inside of a casserole dish with pesto sauce and mozzarella cheese on top

Can I Stuff the Shells in Advance?

You sure can! Instead of assembling the stuffed shells in the baking dish with the sauce, put them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge. When you’re ready to proceed with the recipe, layer the stuffed shells into the casserole dish with the sauce and bake as usual. It’s best to do this within 24 hours of filling your shells.

If you’d like to stuff your shells more than a day in advance, you can store them in the freezer instead of refrigerating them. Place the stuffed shells onto a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze them until they’re solid, about 2 hours. Transfer them to a freezer-safe container and store them for 2-3 months, thawing them out in the fridge before assembling and baking.

Tips for Success

These helpful tips will have you serving up the best stuffed shells of your life. Be sure to check them out!

  • Make the Sauce a Day Ahead of Time: While you can totally make the sauce right before you start working on your stuffed shells, I prefer to prepare it a day in advance. This allows the flavors to intensify, making the finished dish even tastier.
  • Don’t Overcook the Pasta: Keep in mind that the pasta shells are going to be baked for quite a while after they’re cooked and filled. If you let them get too soft the first time around, they may become mushy in the oven.
  • Customize Away: Whether you want to add gently cooked spinach to the ricotta filling or need to use gluten-free pasta shells to make this dish comply with your diet, go right ahead. It’s a super flexible recipe!
A close-up shot of ricotta stuffed shells with meat sauce inside of a baking dish

Serving Suggestions

Round out your meal in an unforgettable way by pairing your ricotta stuffed shells with one of the following accompaniments.

  • Serve With Bruschetta: Looking for a classic Italian appetizer to set the stage for your main course? This fresh Avocado Bruschetta adds a creamy twist to a quick and easy crowd favorite.
  • Pair With Brussels Sprouts: It’s seriously hard to stop eating these Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts. They’re the perfect crispy side dish to enjoy alongside your stuffed shells.
  • Serve With Spinach Salad: This 5-minute Spinach & Arugula Salad is blissfully simple and wonderfully fresh. Whip it up for a fuss-free side that won’t disappoint.
  • Pair With Potato Wedges: Want to really go all out with the comfort food? Partner your meaty stuffed shells with these crispy Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges. Yum!
A white casserole dish containing stuffed shells with meat sauce and a garnish of pesto and fresh basil

Storage and Reheating

Once they’ve cooled completely, store any leftover stuffed shells in an airtight container in the fridge. They’ll last for up to 4 days. Warm up your leftovers in a 350°F oven until heated through.

Do Stuffed Shells Freeze Well?

Yes – just be sure to keep your leftovers in a freezer-safe container. Freeze the stuffed shells for up to 3 months, thawing them out in the fridge before you reheat them.

Print

A white baking dish containing cheese stuffed shells with meat sauce and a drizzle of pesto

Description

Baked Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Meat is a total swoon-worthy dinner that the whole family will be obsessed with. Jumbo pasta shells filled with a flavorful mixture of cheese and herbs, then covered in homemade Ragu sauce and baked to perfection!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. jumbo shells
  • Homemade Ragu Sauce
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • optional: pesto or fresh basil for garnish

 

Instructions

  1. To start, make my simple Homemade Ragu Sauce.
  2. Next, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water to season and add jumbo pasta shells. Cook noodles until al dente according to package instructions. (approximately 12-14 minutes) Drain the water and set the noodles aside.
  3. Make the ricotta cheese filling: to a small bowl add ricotta, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, parsley and oregano. Mix everything together, put in a large ziplock bag, seal and cut the corner off. This will be used as a “piping” tool later. Set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Cover the bottom of a 13″x9″ baking dish with half of the ragu sauce.
  6. Working with one pasta shell at a a time, fill each shell with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture by piping it in using the ziplock bag. Place the filled shells in the prepared baking dish and repeat until all the shells or cheese filling is used up.
  7. Spoon the remaining sauce over top the filled shells and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  9. Top with pesto or fresh basil to garnish and serve.

Notes

  • Makes 8-10 servings.
  • To Make Ahead: Transfer filled shells to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to proceed, layer stuffed shells into casserole dish with sauce and bake as usual. If shells were frozen, thaw in the fridge before assembling and baking.
  • To Store & Reheat: Refrigerate cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through.
  • To Freeze: Store cooled leftovers in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months, thawing in the fridge before reheating.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 3-4 shells
  • Calories: 463
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Sodium: 603 mg
  • Fat: 18 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 47 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 30 g
  • Cholesterol: 69 mg

Keywords: stuffed shells ricotta, how to make stuffed shells, stuffed pasta shells

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