Meat Stuffed Shells Covered in Melty Cheese
Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with ground beef and Italian Sausage covered with sauce and baked under a melty mozzarella cheese blanket are sure to be a hit at dinner!
MEAT STUFFED SHELLS
Italian stuffed shells filled with meat are my solution for the picky eaters in my life that don’t like ricotta cheese shells.
Meat lovers rejoice! Here’s a stuffed shells recipe with meat! The shells in our recipe are loaded with Italian sausage and ground beef. It’s like a large meatball wrapped in pasta and baked with just enough sauce to finish cooking the shells.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN STUFFED SHELLS
Meat stuffed shells have a couple of steps, but really are super easy to make. Just follow the tips below for success.
JUMBO PASTA SHELLS
You can usually find jumbo pasta shells in any large grocery store. If you find yourself in some fancy store with about a gajillion pastas, it might be called Conchiglie or Conchiglioni.
You really want to boil these just to al dente because the shells are going to cook some more when baked. It will take around 10 minutes no matter which brand you are using.
After 10 minutes remove the pasta from the boiling water and add it to a bowl with cold water and ice in it. This will stop the cooking process and also keep the pasta shells from sticking to each other.
MEAT FILLING FOR STUFFED SHELLS
The meat filling is almost the same as a meatball mix. It’s just Italian sausage, ground beef, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, eggs, onions, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and fresh parsley.
Mix it all well just like you would a meatloaf. Set it aside until you’re ready to fill the pasta shells.
STUFFING MEAT FILLED SHELLS
I use cookie scoops to keep the filling equal in all the shells but you can use a spoon if that’s all you have.
Scoop out the amount of meat filling you want to stuff into the shells, gently open up a shell and press the meat mixture into the shell and then press the shell around the meat to partially cover the top.
You don’t want the shell to be gaping wide open and you also don’t want it to wrap around onto itself.
Don’t forget to put about 2 cups of pasta sauce in the bottom of your baking dish before adding the meat stuffed shells.
COVER MEAT STUFFED SHELLS WITH SAUCE AND CHEESE
I add another 2 cups of sauce to the top of the stuffed shells. If you want more sauce, go ahead and make more, but serve it on the side.
My preferred cheese topping is shredded mozzarella. Go ahead and just cover the whole dish. All that cheese will melt around the shells and be so delicious!
HOW TO BAKE MEAT STUFFED SHELLS
Since the jumbo pasta shells are cooked al dente they need to finish cooking while the meat inside the shells cooks. Covering with aluminum foil or an oven-safe lid will keep the shells from drying out while the meat cooks. This is going to take about an hour in the oven to get the meat filling cooked all the way through. There is pork in this recipe so raw in the middle is no Bueno.
Stuffed shells are perfect for meal prep too! Make an entire batch and put into smaller dishes like the one above. We can get about 3 to 4 freezer meals this way. Just take it out of the freezer and out it into the refrigerator in the morning and bake it before dinner time. Viola! Homemade stuffed shells for supper!
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER MEAT FILLING
Sometimes a shell or two is larger than the others so I usually use any leftover meat I have to fill any shells that look like they just aren’t full enough.
Leftover meat filling can be rolled into balls and used as meatballs in another meal. You can store preformed meatballs in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just add them frozen to your favorite sauce and cook until they are completely cooked.
FREEZING MEAT STUFFED SHELLS
Meat stuffed shells can be frozen before baking.
You can freeze them on a baking sheet in a single layer, once frozen add them to an airtight freezer container and store for up to 3 months.
You can also add the sauce and the shells to a baking pan and freeze it that way. I would leave off the shredded cheese though, I don’t like the texture of frozen cheese after it’s been cooked. DO NOT use a glass baking sheet if you plan to freeze and bake later without allowing the dish to thaw completely because the dish could break from thermal shock.
STORING LEFTOVER SHELLS FILLED WITH MEAT
Store baked leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
To reheat place up to 3 shells on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
WHAT TO SERVE STUFFED SHELLS
- Extra spaghetti sauce
- Simple Green Salad with Italian Vinaigrette
- Steamed zucchini and yellow squash
- Green Beans
- Texas Toast Garlic Bread
Meat Stuffed Shells
- 12- ounce box jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup minced onions
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 4 cups pasta sauce jarred is fine
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat an oven to 350⁰F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta shells for 10 minutes. Do not cook completely, the pasta will continue cooking during the baking process.
- While the pasta is cooking, fill a large bowl with ice water.
- When pasta has finished cooking, remove from the boiling water and put into the ice water.
- In a large bowl, combine the raw meats, breadcrumbs, ½ cup parmesan cheese, eggs, minced onions, garlic powder, black pepper, and fresh parsley. Mix well to combine.
- Prepare a large baking dish or 9 X 13 cake pan by spraying with cooking spray.
- Place 2 cups of pasta sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Drain the cooked and cooled pasta shells and fill with the raw meat mixture. Place the shells into the baking dish.
- Once all of the shells have been stuffed and placed into the baking dish, cover with 2 cups of sauce.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil and place into the refrigerator until ready to cook or cook immediately.
- To cook meat stuffed shells, preheat an oven to 350⁰F and remove the shells from the refrigerator.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the meat and shells are completely cooked.
- Remove from the oven, remove foil, cover with mozzarella cheese and place back into the oven and continue baking until the cheese has melted.
- Remove from the oven and serve.