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A close up of the corner of a pan of baked shells with meat.

Stuffed Shells with Meat

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  • Author: Erin Jensen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner/Entree
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian-Inspired


Stuffed Shells with Meat – this stuffed shells with meat recipe is a delicious, family-friendly weeknight dinner that so easy and SO GOOD!




  • 15oz whole milk ricotta cheese (or dairy-free option)
  • 1/4 cup chopped spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 12 oz box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 24 oz marinara sauce
  • 23 cups shredded cheese of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine Ricotta Mixture ingredients in a medium bowl; stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain and toss with a little olive oil if they might sit out for a bit while you prepare the sauce – this will help prevent them from sticking and drying out. 
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat the pan.
  5. Add garlic and move around pan until it becomes fragrant, approx. 30 seconds.
  6. Add ground beef and move around pan until it is fully cooked; drain excess grease.
  7. Add onion, fresh basil, salt, pepper and marinara sauce. Stir to combine.
  8. Taste and add any additional salt, as desired.
  9. Add approx. 1/2 the meat sauce to the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. 
  10. One by one, take a shell and fill it with the ricotta mixture. Place in the pan and repeat until the ricotta mixture is all used up. 
  11. Cover the shells with the remaining meat sauce and then top with the shredded cheese.
  12. Cover pan with foil and place in the oven, middle rack, for 30 minutes. 
  13. Remove foil and return to oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. 
  14. Let cool slightly and then serve. Feel free to top with additional fresh basil and parmesan cheese.


  • Dairy-Free: To make this dish dairy-free, use dairy-free cheese options throughout. 
  • Gluten-Free: To make this dish gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta shells.
  • Storage: Once cooled completely, store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
  • Spice it up:  For those with a brave palette, feel free to throw in some red pepper flakes over the top or sprinkle in some cayenne pepper to the marinara sauce.