This stuffed shells with meat sauce recipe is a fun and easy twist on classic lasagna and is always a huge hit! It's made with jumbo pasta shells that are stuffed with a cheesy filling and smothered with a delicious homemade meat sauce.
What You Need to Make Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce:
Jumbo pasta shells: For a 9 x 13" casserole dish you will need about 20-25 jumbo pasta shells. I always boil the whole package since there are always a few that end up breaking.
- Olive oil
- Ground beef: 80% lean (or ground chuck).
- Onion: Chopped. I like the flavor red onions add to the sauce, but feel free to use any variety of onion you prefer or what you have on hand.
- Salt & pepper
- Garlic: Minced. You can also substitute with garlic powder.
- Tomato sauce + tomato paste
- Balsamic vinegar
- Brown sugar: Light or dark brown sugar. Adding a little brown sugar is a quick shortcut that cuts down the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Red wine: The wine adds an amazing depth of flavor to the sauce. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be a drinking quality. Or if you'd rather not use wine you can substitute with low-sodium beef broth. Be sure to adjust the seasoning as needed or to taste.
- Ricotta cheese
- Black pepper
How to Make Stuffed Shells:
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Start by boiling the shells. You will want to boil them a few minutes short of the package directions since they will continue to cook in the oven. Arrange the cooked shells in a single layer on a pan lined with parchment paper while you make the rest of the ingredients.
Make the Meat Sauce:
Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, ground beef, salt, and pepper. Cook, breaking up the beef as you do, until the beef is cooked through and no more pink remains. About 3-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute, then stir in the tomato paste, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and dry red wine (or broth). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then lower the heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, eggs, and black pepper.
Assemble: Lightly grease a 9 x 13" glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread half of the meat sauce evenly in the bottom of the dish. Add the shells in a single layer and fill them generously with the cheese mixture.
Spread the rest of the meat sauce over the top and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with more shredded mozzarella. Bake for 10 minutes longer, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley, if desired. Enjoy!
More Italian Recipes:
- Italian Risotto
- Stromboli Recipe
- Homemade Gnocchi
- Baked Ziti
- 1 - 12 oz. package Jumbo pasta shells
- 1 lb. ground beef, 80 - 85% lean
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 - 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. dry red wine
- 1 and ½ cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, *plus more for topping
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Cook the shells in boiling salted water for 9 minutes, they should be slightly undercooked. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. You will only need about 25 or so shells, but cook extra in case some of them break.
- While the shells cook, start preparing the meat sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the chopped onions and ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Break up the beef and cook until no longer pink.
- Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and dry red wine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer over low heat.
- In a medium bowl stir together ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, and pepper.
- Spray a 9 x 13" casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread half of the meat sauce evenly in the bottom of the dish.
- Arrange the shells in an even layer on top of the meat sauce.
- To stuff the shells with the cheese mixture you can either use a spoon to gently fill each shell or - add the cheese mixture into a large plastic bag and cut a small opening to pipe the filling in that way.
- Spread the rest of the meat sauce over the tops of the shells.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the top with more shredded mozzarella. Bake for another 10 minutes.
- Top with chopped fresh basil if desired and serve warm.
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