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This Stuffed Shells recipe is a family favorite recipe! Large pasta shells are stuffed with a flavorful meat mixture and baked with a rich tomato sauce.
Looking for more delicious Italian-style dinner ideas? I think you’ll love my Lasagna, Spaghetti Sauce, and also my Pasta Fagioli. Yum!
This Stuffed Shells recipe makes the perfect savory and satisfying meal! These large pasta shells are stuffed full of a delicious meaty and cheesy mixture that has the most incredible flavor! I love to have them assembled ahead of time so I can pop them into the oven for an easy supper.
How to Make Stuffed Shells Recipe
Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full listing of ingredients, instructions, notes, and the estimated nutritional information.
These are the key ingredients you’ll use to make these delicious stuffed shells.
- Shell pasta – I prefer to use large shell pasta in this recipe. I have found that they are easier to stuff with the filling than medium or smaller shells. I also like them to easily portion servings based on the meal.
- Ground beef – Makes for a hearty meal. I have also included alternatives under substitutions and additions below that you may enjoy.
- Tomatoes – I use a mixture of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to make the sauce for this recipe. Together with the seasonings, the sauce is rich and flavorful.
- Seasonings: basil and oregano
- Cheeses – three different kinds of cheese go into the filling of these shells: cream cheese, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
Substitutions and additions
- Meat – Substitute with ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground venison based on your preference, or simply omit the meat completely if you prefer. You can also add sliced mushrooms or use them as a substitute for the meat in this recipe.
- Seasonings – Use Italian Seasoning in place of the oregano and basil. Chopped fresh parsley is also delicious sprinkled on top of the dish when serving.
- Cheeses – You can use ricotta or cottage cheese instead of cream cheese.
- Yogurt – Use sour cream in place of the yogurt.
- Tomato Sauce – You can also use my delicious marinara sauce recipe or if you need a quick and easy substitute for homemade sauce, use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce.
- Spinach – Add spinach to the filling mixture.
Cook pasta shells to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Cook vegetables and meat. Cook the onion and garlic until tender, about 3 minutes. Add and brown ground beef. Drain away any drippings.
Make the filling. Stir the cheeses and yogurt into the beef mixture.
Make the sauce. Meanwhile, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings to a saucepan and cook until heated throughout.
Assemble. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon the filling mixture into each of the cooked pasta shells. Arrange in the baking dish.
Add sauce and bake. Top each of the shells with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes; remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes.
Serve. Stuffed shells are ready to serve or cool and store for serving later if making ahead. We love to serve this with our favorite house salad. It is so delicious!
Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions
To make ahead (unbaked). Assemble the stuffed shells without baking. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator overnight for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator as the oven preheats. Bake as directed; you may need to add about 10 minutes to the baking time since the stuffed shells will be baking from cold rather than warm.
To make ahead (baked). Cool and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Remove from the refrigerator and reheat in the oven or in the microwave until warm throughout.
To freeze (unbaked). Assemble the stuffed shells in a freezer-safe baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as you would for the make-ahead unbaked directions.
To freeze (baked). Bake in a freezer-safe baking dish. Allow to cool and then wrap tightly with foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in the oven or microwave until heated throughout.
I think you’ll love these simple stuffed shells, too!
Stuffed Shells Recipe
- Sauce Pan
- 12 large shell pasta
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound ground beef or ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground venison
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
- 1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese or Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Prep. Preheat oven to 350º F. Spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil on 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.
- Cook shells. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain shells from water.
- Make the filling. Add olive oil to a large Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and tender, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until ground beef is cooked thoroughly. Drain away any excess drippings. Stir in Greek yogurt, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese.
- Make the tomato sauce. In another saucepan, stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and oregano and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and ladle about 1 cup of mixture into the bottom of baking dish.
- Assemble and bake. Spoon beef mixture into shells and place into baking dish. Ladle remaining tomato sauce over stuffed shells, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
Make ahead and Freezer Instructions:To make ahead (unbaked). Assemble the stuffed shells without baking. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator overnight for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator as the oven preheats. Bake as directed; you may need to add about 10 minutes to the baking time since the stuffed shells will be baking from cold rather than warm. To make ahead (baked). Cool and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Remove from the refrigerator and reheat in the oven or in the microwave until warm throughout. To freeze (unbaked). Assemble the stuffed shells in a freezer-safe baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as you would for the make-ahead unbaked directions. To freeze (baked). Bake in a freezer-safe baking dish. Allow to cool and then wrap tightly with foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat in the oven or microwave until heated throughout.
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Thanks Robyn for nice recipe. Sounds good. Have a wonderful weekend filled with love and laughter.
sounds yummy! Would sour cream work instead of the Greek yogurt? Think I will try this soon!
This looks delicious, thanks for sharing it! I see that it’s tagged in freezer meals, have you had good luck freezing it? Do you recommend freezing before baking? Thanks so much!
It’s a wonderful time of year! We love stuffed shells and this sounds perfect for the cooler days ahead.
I think I might try this but with less cheese and some chopped veggies like mushrooms, small chopped zucchini, and shredded carrot. Maybe use reduced fat cream cheese? I am trying to watch the “waist”
what can I use instead of Greek yogart or sour cream?
I make something similar, except I do not cook the shells. They are so much easier to stuff uncooked, with no risk of tearing. I nust add a little water to the sauce, making it thinner. The extra sauce gets absorbed cooking the shells, with extra to pour over shels on your plate!
It has been years since I have had stuffed shells. Your recipe sounds easy and good enough that I wil l make these this coming weekend.
I can’t wait for you to try them, Alice! So easy and so delicious – I hope you enjoy them! xo
Looks fantastic like most of Robin’s recipes. Can’t wait to make it. On another note, am I the only guy following Robin 😀
Love this comment! I hope you enjoy these Stuffed Shells! I answer a lot of comments from other guys, so I hope they like the recipes too. I am excited to have you here and hope you find many recipes to enjoy! Thanks so much! 🙂
..made these last night and they were incredible. I added leftover spinich to the meat mixture and mushrooms to the sauce. Fantastic!
This recipe makes a delicious dish. The instructions are very easy to follow. Robyn, you are right to add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta water. The instructions on the pasta box don’t mention this. I was excited to make this dish, and as usual, Robyn did not disappoint. I’m so glad I found your site. I always trust your recipes.
Thanks Cynthia! xo
I meant to add that I was a tad concerned about adding the stuffing to the shells. I drained the shells open side down on a plate covered with a paper towel. The shells were very easy to stuff. No problem at all.
That’s great to hear, Cindi! So glad you found them easy to make! Thanks!
Last comment, I promise. I used cream cheese with jalapenos which gave the dish a little kick.