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The best stuffed pasta shells are full of ground beef, three different types of cheese, and a secret ingredient that adds tons of flavor. Serve the easy stuffed shells recipe with a side salad and garlic bread for a delicious, make-ahead dinner. The 5-star recipe has been featured in Taste of Home magazine, and you’re about to see why!

Overhead shot of a pan of the best stuffed pasta shells recipe on a wooden table
Table of Contents
  1. How to Make Stuffed Shells | 1-Minute Video
  2. Stuffed Shells with Meat
  3. What are Stuffed Shells?
  4. Ingredients
  5. How to Make Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Meat
  6. What to Serve with this Recipe for Stuffed Shells
  7. How many Stuffed Pasta Shells Per Person?
  8. Preparation and Storage
  9. Recipe Variations
  10. Tips for the Best Stuffed Shells Recipe
  11. The Best Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe Recipe

How to Make Stuffed Shells | 1-Minute Video

Stuffed Shells with Meat

Does it get any cozier than a pan of stuffed pasta shells full of ricotta and ground beef, smothered in meat sauce, and finished with extra cheese? Similar to a classic lasagna recipe, these Italian stuffed shells have been loved in American homes for decades! From kids to grandparents, here’s why everyone loves this recipe:

  • The ricotta stuffed shells can be assembled in advance and frozen or refrigerated until you’re ready to bake them. Talk about convenient!
  • This recipe yields a large batch to serve 8, so it’s perfect for entertaining. If you’re feeding a smaller family, you can divide the stuffed shells between two smaller 8-inch baking dishes and freeze one for later. You get two meals with one effort. Love that!
  • The secret ingredient — pesto — adds tons of flavor to the ricotta and ground beef filling. No boring stuffed shells here!

Are you convinced? First, let’s address a few common questions before we get to the recipe.

Stirring ground beef in a cast iron skillet

What are Stuffed Shells?

This Italian-inspired dish includes Jumbo Shells pasta, which are stuffed with a variety of ingredients and baked with sauce and cheese in a casserole dish. Beef and ricotta is a classic stuffed shells filling, but you might also find spinach and cheese stuffed shells, chicken stuffed shells with spinach and Alfredo, or sausage and cheese stuffed shells.

Stirring a ricotta cheese mixture in a white bowl

What’s the difference between Stuffed Shells and Manicotti?

While these two Italian stuffed pasta dishes are quite similar, there are a few specific differences. Manicotti, which literally translates to “little muffs,” are large tubes of pasta designed for stuffing.

By contrast, stuffed shells are made with conchiglioni pasta, the larger version of conchiglie, which means “conch shells.” The jumbo shells have thin ridges set close together, and typically stuffed with a combination of meat, cheeses, and vegetables. Unlike the tubes of manicotti, jumbo pasta shells can hold an amount of stuffing equal to the size and shape of an egg.

Process shot showing the best way to stuff shells

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for the best stuffed pasta shells recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Jumbo pasta shellsI always cook the entire 12-ounce box, but you likely won’t need all of them. It just depends on how full you stuff each shell, and how tightly you pack them in the dish. Some shells tend to break or rip in the cooking process, so it’s nice to have extras.
  • Ground beef: adds hearty texture and great flavor to both the ricotta filling and the sauce. You can substitute with Italian sausage or ground turkey, too.
  • Onion: for extra savory flavor.
  • Shredded Italian cheese blend: goes into the filling and on top of the casserole.
  • Ricotta cheese: gives the filling that rich, creamy texture. If you prefer, you can substitute with cottage cheese, but see my notes below for more details on that change.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: freshly-grated is always my preference, but pre-grated cheese straight from the can is perfectly fine here as well!
  • Egg: gives the filling structure so that it doesn’t ooze out of the shells.
  • Pesto: the “secret” ingredient that adds great garlic and basil flavor to the filling. You can make your own pesto or find a jar of prepared pesto at the grocery store on the aisle with the other jars of pasta sauces.
  • Marinara sauce: use a homemade marinara sauce or purchase a jar of store-bought sauce for a nice shortcut.
Marinara meat sauce in a white bowl

How to Make Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Meat

While this recipe for stuffed shells requires a few steps for assembly, I can assure you that it’s well worth the few extra minutes in the kitchen. Plus, the stuffed shells are very easy — if you can brown ground beef and cook some pasta, you can prepare this dish!

  1. Cook pasta shells in a large pot of salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. Brown the ground beef and onion in a skillet; drain off the fat.
  3. Stir together the ricotta cheese mixture.
  4. Mix together the meat sauce.
  5. Stuff shells with ricotta filling.
  6. Arrange the stuffed shells in a 13 x 9-inch dish.
  7. Spread meat sauce over top.
  8. Sprinkle with cheese.
  9. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the cover and bake for 10 more minutes, until the cheese is melted the filling is hot.
Spreading tomato meat sauce on top of a baking dish
Sprinkling cheese on top of a casserole

What to Serve with this Recipe for Stuffed Shells

If you’re wondering what goes with stuffed shells for dinner, here are a few easy ideas to get you started:

Side shot of stuffed shells ricotta in a pan on a dinner table

How many Stuffed Pasta Shells Per Person?

I generally assume about 2-3 shells per person. Larger appetites might like 4, while smaller eaters may prefer 2. This recipe yields about 20-22 stuffed shells with a hearty meat sauce, and it typically feeds about 6-8 people.

Preparation and Storage

Leftover baked stuffed pasta shells will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

How to Reheat Stuffed Shells

Let the dish sit on the counter and come to room temperature for about 1 hour before reheating. Cover the dish with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven just until warmed through (about 20-30 minutes). You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 1 minute.

How to Freeze

Stuffed shells with ground beef is the ultimate prep-ahead freezer meal! If you would like to make the casserole in advance, simply assemble the dish (but do not bake). Cover the dish with foil and either refrigerate for up to 24 hours; or, if freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil. Keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

How to Cook from Frozen

When ready to bake, you can either thaw the stuffed shells in the refrigerator overnight (and bake according to the recipe instructions); or you can bake the stuffed shells directly from the freezer at 350°F for about 60-70 minutes (or until heated through). Don’t forget to remove the foil during the final 10 minutes of baking to allow the cheese to brown on top!

Close overhead shot of a spoon with beef stuffed shells

Recipe Variations

  • This recipe yields a large batch to serve 8, so it’s perfect for entertaining. If you’re feeding a smaller family, you can divide the stuffed shells between two smaller 8-inch baking dishes and freeze one for later.
  • Use about 1 lb. of ground Italian sausage, ground turkey, or ground chicken instead of the ground beef.
  • To make these amazing stuffed shells without ricotta, you can substitute with cottage cheese instead. If using cottage cheese, I recommend straining off some of the liquid first or using a whipped cottage cheese so that you don’t end up with a watery filling.
  • Add cooked spinach to the filling. Just make sure that you squeeze the spinach very dry before stirring it into the ricotta mixture — otherwise it will water-down the dish.
  • Swap out some of the meat and sub with extra veggies, such as sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, and/or zucchini. You’ll need to saute the vegetables in the skillet before stuffing in the shells.
Overhead image of ricotta stuffed shells with ground beef and a parsley garnish

Tips for the Best Stuffed Shells Recipe

  • Boil the pasta in well-salted water. This is your only opportunity to season the pasta itself, so don’t be shy with the salt!
  • Cook the pasta shells just until barely al dente, since they will continue to cook in the oven. You don’t want to end up with overdone, mushy pasta!
  • Add some ground black pepper or a dash of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit more kick.
  • Garnish the shells with fresh herbs like parsley or basil for a bright finishing touch.
Overhead shot of easy stuffed pasta shells on a wooden dinner table with a salad on the side

Try Another Recipe for Stuffed Shells

Square overhead shot of stuffed shells with meat.

Stuffed Shells with Meat

4.91 from 43 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 446 kcal
Stuffed shells with meat, three different types of cheese, and a secret ingredient that adds tons of flavor!

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta shells in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions for al dente. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse under cold water.
  • Meanwhile, brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain off fat; let cool slightly before adding to the filling.
    Cooking ground beef in a skillet for stuffed shells.
  • Combine 1 ½ cups of the shredded Italian blend cheese, all of the ricotta cheese, all of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the pesto, and half of the beef and onion mixture in a large bowl. Set aside.
    Stirring together filling for stuffed shells.
  • Spread ¾ cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. In a bowl, stir together the remaining marinara sauce and the remaining half of the beef and onion mixture. Set aside.
    Meat sauce for stuffed shells in a small white bowl.
  • Fill the cooked, cooled pasta shells with the ricotta mixture. Arrange the shells in the baking dish.
    Process shot showing how to stuff pasta shells.
  • Top the shells with the marinara sauce mixture.
    Process shot showing how to make stuffed shells with meat sauce.
  • Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of Italian cheese blend over top.
    Sprinkling cheese on top of stuffed shells before baking.
  • Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 10 more minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil, if desired. Serve!
    Square side shot of a blue baking dish full of the best stuffed pasta shells.

Video

Notes

  • Cook the pasta shells just until barely al dente, since they will continue to bake in the oven. You don’t want to end up with overdone, mushy pasta.
  • Add ground black pepper or a dash of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit more kick.
  • Add cooked spinach to the cheese filling. Just make sure that you squeeze the spinach very dry before stirring it into the ricotta mixture — otherwise it will water-down the dish.
  • Swap out some of the meat and sub with extra veggies, such as sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, and/or zucchini. You’ll need to saute the vegetables in the skillet and strain off any extra liquid before stuffing in the shells.
  • Assume about 2-3 shells per person. Larger appetites might like 4, while smaller eaters may prefer 2. This recipe yields about 20-22 stuffed shells with a hearty meat sauce, and it typically feeds about 6-8 people.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 446kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 35gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 714mgPotassium: 357mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 705IUVitamin C: 2.2mgCalcium: 494mgIron: 2.2mg
Keyword: Ground Beef Recipes, stuffed pasta shells, Stuffed Shells Recipe, stuffed shells with meat, Stuffed Shells with Ricotta
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in December, 2013. It was updated in November, 2021.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Victoria Martens says:

    Could I replace the marinara sauce for tomato sauce?

    1. Blair says:

      Sure! The tomato sauce just doesn’t have the seasoning that the marinara sauce has, so you might want to add some Italian herbs (like basil, oregano, etc.) or salt and pepper. Totally up to you and your taste preferences!

  2. Christina Arden-Jackson says:

    5 stars
    Made this over the weekend, and stored the extra filled shells in freezer bags. I only used the ground meat in the sauce not in the filling mixture, as I wanted to use a piping bag to squirt the filling into the shells, and I figured the beef would clog the nozzle. I love pesto, a d was really pleased at how flavorful it made the filling. That’s a great tip!

    Both my husband and stepson enjoyed the shells.

    1. Blair says:

      Great! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the meal, Christina! 🙂

    2. Lesley says:

      Great idea!! I’m cooking for two, so i did the same.it’ll be nice for another quick mask!

      1. Blair says:

        Enjoy, Lesley! 🙂

        1. Lesley says:

          5 stars
          Had to comment again, these shells were a huge hit!! My bf loved them! the pesto in the filling was such a tasty addition! Saving this for future dinners. Thanks!

          1. Blair says:

            Wonderful! Thanks for taking the time to come back and leave a note, Lesley!

        2. Christine says:

          5 stars
          Made these tonight and they were delicious! I love the addition of the pesto for added flavor. Hubby wanted to know right away how difficult they were to make because he wants them again! Thanks for the recipe!

      2. Stacey Shealer says:

        What is the pesto for? Can I make this without it?

        1. Blair says:

          Hi, Stacey! The pesto just adds more flavor to the mixture (garlic, basil and Parmesan, primarily). You can totally make the recipe without the pesto, though. You might want to add some herbs to substitute for that flavor if you’ve got them — basil and parsley would be great. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Blair says:

    Hey, Lyndsey! In step #3, the recipe says to combine 1.5 cups of the shredded Italian blend cheese (the recipe calls for 2 cups divided, so you will use the remaining 1/2 cup on top), with all of the Parmesan (1/2 cup) called for in the recipe. I hope that helps to clarify!

    1. Alicia O'Connell says:

      I think she was looking for the KINDS of cheese to use in the Italian Blend not realizing that it’s a prepackaged blend called “Italian Cheese Blend”.

      1. Blair says:

        Oh!!! If that’s the case, then I don’t know what the packaged ratio is. 🙂 Thank you for helping to clarify the question! If you can’t find the Italian cheese blend package, grated mozzarella is a perfect substitute.

        1. Jerry says:

          Just use whatever amount of the cheese you have, making sure you have the total amount. I use more cheese than suggested, love the cheese.

          1. Blair says:

            Absolutely! The recipe is just a guide, but you should always feel free to make it your own! 🙂

  4. CAROL COOPER says:

    5 stars
    This really is The Best! Made it for my family and we wished I’d tripled the recipe. Yummmmmmm. Thanks!

    1. Blair says:

      That’s great, Carol! Thank you so much for letting me know and for taking the time to leave a note!

  5. Mary says:

    5 stars
    Wonderful taste, fairly easy to put together, this ia dish l will make again and again.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Mary! That makes me so happy to hear! 🙂

  6. Sarah says:

    5 stars
    Not hard to follow… but I can understand your confusion. The total amount of the shredded Italian cheese blend was 2 c. (see recipe ingredient list) when she said 1.5 c. shredded Italian cheese blend and then mentioned 2 other cheeses (Ricotta, Parmesan) she means, “don’t put in all the 2 cups of shredded Italian cheese, only put in 1.5 c. but do put in all of the Ricotta and Parmesan”. If you look at step 6, it says to put the remaining 1/2 c. shredded Italian cheese on top.

    Hopefully that makes sense! I love this recipe and it has become a favorite for me! It’s not hard to prep and a great recipe to have in the freezer ready to go when time or energy is low! Thank you for a great recipe!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you, Sarah!

      1. Betty Barnes says:

        Question can I use Spinich with the rogotta cheese and not use beef, chicken etc.r, for a vegetarian.
        And if I freeze this cook first or cook after taken from fr

        1. Blair Lonergan says:

          Hi, Betty! I’d recommend using this recipe for spinach stuffed shells: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/spinach-stuffed-shells/

          Here are the preparation and storage instructions:

          How to Freeze: This is the ultimate prep-ahead freezer meal! If you would like to make the casserole in advance, simply assemble the dish (but do not bake). Cover the dish with foil and either refrigerate for up to 24 hours; or, if freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil. Keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

          How to Cook Frozen Stuffed Shells: When ready to bake, you can either thaw the stuffed shells in the refrigerator overnight (and bake according to the recipe instructions); or you can bake the stuffed shells directly from the freezer at 350°F for about 60-70 minutes (or until heated through). Don’t forget to remove the foil during the final 10 minutes of baking to allow the cheese to brown on top!

          How to Reheat: Let the dish sit on the counter and come to room temperature for about 1 hour before reheating. Cover the dish with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven just until warmed through (about 20-30 minutes). You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 1 minute.

          Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

  7. Blair says:

    Hi, Nechica! You can do it either way, but I’ve shown them facing down here. 🙂

  8. Jessica says:

    5 stars
    Making this tonight! I decided to use the jumbo shells in the pantry finally on a whim. This recipe fit my needs perfectly. Only substitutions I made was ground venison instead of beef (which I do with all beef recipes) and used cream cheese and a little sour cream instead of ricotta because I didnt have any and it’s a little late in the evening to make a grocery store run! I think it will turn out very nicely though the cream cheese may run out of the shells more than the ricotta but that’s my own fault! Haha

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Jessica! 🙂

  9. Blair says:

    Thank you! That’s so kind of you to say, and it makes me really happy to know that you enjoy the recipes. I’m so appreciative that you took the time to leave me a note! 🙂

  10. Sandy says:

    Making Right Now, The Stuffing Looks So Good & I like the idea of the Pesto added, Let You know how it tastes, Can’t Wait !!

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Enjoy, Sandy!

  11. Nyleen says:

    Can you cook shells ahead?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Nyleen! If you’re just wanting to cook the pasta ahead (but not assemble and bake the full dish in advance), that should work — just be careful that you really rinse the shells well with cold water after draining them. Also, you might want to toss them with olive oil, because I’m really worried that they will stick together as they sit, making it hard to stuff them later without ripping them apart. Hope that makes sense! 🙂

  12. CHICKS says:

    5 stars
    Haven’t even eaten them yet – just got done making 2 pans – 1 for the freezer. I did half and half of spinach and ricotta and these meat stuffed shells. I used half ground beef and half mild Italian sausage. It was soooooooooo fun to make – especially in my COVID-19 shelter-in-place crazed state. They smell delicious. I will check out your other recipes – since I seem to have time on my hands – which I wash a lot – stay safe and healthy all!

  13. Arturo says:

    5 stars
    Hello!! I followed this recipe today and it turned out great. Although could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE made a video for all of us? I would love to save a video or something that it is easy and faster to follow PLEASE! Seriously it is an amazing recipe. Loved it

  14. Nicole Barksdale-Jarmon says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic! The pesto made a world of difference.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Nicole! I totally agree. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to come back and leave me a note!

  15. Marisol R says:

    5 stars
    I made this today and it was sooooo good. I can’t wait to try some more of your recipes.

    1. Blair says:

      Yay! So glad that you enjoyed them, Marisol! Thanks for taking the time to come back here and let me know. I hope you enjoy some of my other recipes, too!

  16. Lauren Ingraham says:

    No rating as I haven’t made these yet. Question, though, do you use a basil pesto? The recipe doesn’t specify. Thanks!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Lauren! Yep — basil pesto is what I always use. 🙂

      1. Priscilla lowenthal says:

        What kind of basil pesto do I buy. Does it come in a jar and which hrand. Thanks

        1. Blair says:

          Hi, Priscilla! You can really use any pesto that you can find. Some stores sell fresh pesto in the refrigerated section or near the deli. I usually buy a jar of Classico brand pesto, which is sold in the same aisle as the other pasta sauces and packaged dry pastas. Different stores carry different brands, though, and any version (store-bought, homemade, etc.) will work here. Enjoy!

      2. Dana says:

        Should the shells be put into the casserole with the “open” side facing up or down? Some of the pictures look different than the video.

        1. Blair Lonergan says:

          Hi, Dana! I usually place them open side up, but either way works fine!

  17. Diana says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely loved this! Followed to a t and it was perfect. My boyfriend always asks for this . This is by far the best thing I have ever cooked. I can’t wait to try other recipes by you.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Diana! I’m so glad that you and your boyfriend both enjoyed it! I appreciate you taking the time to come back here and let me know. 🙂

  18. Kristin says:

    5 stars
    Made this for the first time last night. Loved it and so did the rest of the family! Shared it with my mom and she can’t wait to try it either. Will definitely make this again.

    1. Blair says:

      Wonderful! Thanks, Kristin!

    2. Kay says:

      5 stars
      Great recipe, easy to follow and we loved it! Pesto is a great touch!

      1. The Seasoned Mom says:

        We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Kay! Thank you for trying it out and taking the time to leave a review.

  19. Sidney says:

    5 stars
    This is the best!!! My family and I loved it. I will be making it again soon. I just have one question. Do you keep the oil or strain it after browning the meat?

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Sidney! I strain off the grease and discard it after browning the meat.

  20. Connie Moak says:

    can i freeze this after baking and how do i do it for it to be good later please email me n let me know

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Connie! It’s definitely best to freeze the dish before baking; however, if you have leftovers you can certainly freeze the baked shells as well. Just transfer them to a freezer-safe, airtight container, cover tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.

  21. Beverly says:

    Can I combine ground beef with sausage?

    1. Blair says:

      Absolutely! Enjoy, Beverly! 🙂

  22. Blair says:

    Hi, Mary! Thank you so much for letting me know! I don’t have too much control over the specific ads that appear, but I can report this to my ad company so that they can block those particular ads in the future. Again, thanks for telling me!

  23. Marilyn D Reynolds says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is absolutely the best ever stuffed shell recipe. Very simple and delicious! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Blair says:

      Oh, good! So glad that it was a hit, Marilyn. Thanks for your note!

  24. Kirsten says:

    5 stars
    Delicious!! Will make for company this winter for sure—made a half recipe for my family of 4 and now I wish I would have made the whole recipe to have 1/2 in the freezer! Thank you!

    1. Blair says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Kirsten! That’s exactly what I do — make the full recipe and then freeze one pan for another day. 🙂

  25. Kathy says:

    5 stars
    I loved the idea of adding the beef to the filling, however, I did not have any pesto. I always have my own red sauce with meat though so I just drained as much meat from my red sauce and tried that instead. I do plan on trying the pesto though as soon as I get or make some. Hoping this turns out just as good. In the oven now. I am thinking it will just turn out tasting more like lasagne, which is fine because I love lasagne.

    1. Blair says:

      I bet your version will work, too! Hope you enjoy, Kathy!

  26. Patti Goodwin says:

    Your recipes are amazing! I have tried many, and never disappointed. I do have a quick question for this recipe. I’m are not a fan of ricotta, so I usually do 1/2 ricotta and 1/2 cottage cheese. Can this be frozen? I will be doing the full recipe and freezing half. If not, I can make it as written(hubby LOVES any kind of chees!)

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Patti! So glad that you enjoy the recipes! 🙂

      Yes, I think it should work perfectly fine to sub with 1/2 cottage cheese and freeze half of the recipe. Enjoy!

    2. Ana Rosa says:

      5 stars
      I have only made this dish over 10 years ago. But this recipe was a big hit at my house. Husband loved it, kids loved it and so did I. There was nothing else needed for this dish . Thank you

      1. Blair Lonergan says:

        So glad to hear that, Ana Rosa. Thank you!

  27. Carol says:

    Curious if I could substitute cream cheese for Ricotta? Hubby will NOT EAT anything made with Ricotta – there is no way to ‘disguise it’ to satisfy him. I’ve tried subbing cottage cheese (after pureeing it) and he wouldn’t eat that either.
    Pain to me, cause I LOVE things like the shells and lasagna and others!

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Carol! I think the cream cheese would probably work — just make sure that it’s softened to room temperature. Other options (besides cottage cheese) that might work as an alternative include a thick sour cream or mascarpone cheese. Hope your husband approves! 🙂

  28. Kimberly says:

    What do you recommend to serve with stuffed shells to make a
    Complete meal?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Kimberly! I typically serve them with salad and bread. Garlic bread is great, or you could do a baguette, dinner rolls, whatever you like. Enjoy!

  29. Sizzlin Sisters says:

    5 stars
    Not a crumb left on our plates!

    XO from TO

    1. Blair says:

      Yay! So glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

  30. Teri says:

    Do you think spinach would work with the pesto in this recipe?

  31. ERey says:

    Hello, I’d like to add a little seasoning to the beef. What would you recommend and how much? I also like using a ground beef/pork mix. Would you recommend this? If so, again, what seasoning and how much?

    Thanks!

    1. Blair says:

      Sure, a mix of ground beef and pork would be great! You can season the meat with any herbs/spices that you like. I would go with garlic powder, basil, oregano or an Italian seasoning blend. For spice, you can also use some crushed red pepper flakes. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

      1. Jade-Ann Peters says:

        5 stars
        My absolute favorite the basil pesto is a knock out combo. Thank you for sharing ❤️ I add the red pepper flakes to the marinara and I combined white rice with the beef and ricotta (must add from my mom’s recipe) absolutely delicious.

        1. Blair says:

          Thank you, Jade-Ann! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the meal. Thanks for your note!

  32. Lori says:

    5 stars
    This was really good! My store was out of shells, so I used manicotti. I also did half beef and half sweet Italian sausage. All was delicious.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      YUM! Italian sausage is always a great addition! Thanks, Lori! 🙂

  33. Sylvia Johnson says:

    Can I make this ahead of time, refrigerate it then bake it the next day?

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Yes, ma’am! Just let it come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30-60 minutes before baking. This will help it reheat evenly. You don’t want to put a cold dish in the hot oven if you don’t have to. 🙂 Enjoy!

  34. Lynda says:

    Do you have to use pesto

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Lynda! No, you don’t. If you don’t have pesto, you can use chopped fresh basil or even dried basil as a flavorful substitute.

  35. Tim says:

    5 stars
    In the oven now! Yes, it’s hot out this weekend (even up here in RI) but that’s ok. I started with your spinach stuffed shells recipe from this morning’s blog but ended up here since I had some Italian sausage in the freezer. Love your weekly e-newsletter and all the pics. You live in a beautiful area of the country and you make the most of it!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Tim. I really appreciate that! I hope that you enjoy the meal!

  36. Artisa says:

    2 stars
    I did not enjoy the taste of the pesto in the cheese filling. It was very over powering

  37. Ken says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe. I am not sure you know this, but there’s right-wing political ads running on this page. It’s already insufferable with ads, but the political ones make me never want to come back here.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      I didn’t realize that, Ken. Thank you for letting me know!

  38. Lori Anne says:

    5 stars
    Hi Blair!

    I made this for Thanksgiving for my Italian/pasta loving sons and it was delicious! The pesto is so good mixed with ricotta.

    I live in Virginia too… VA Beach/Chesapeake area and I love the Blue Ridge Mountains. So beautiful in the fall for hiking.

    I quickly scanned over many of your recipes and can’t wait to try them… so many!

    Thank you for this great webpage and recipes.

    Lori Anne

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Lori Anne! It’s so great to meet you. Thank you for visiting the blog and for your kind words. Happy holidays!

  39. Jessica o says:

    5 stars
    My husband is a picky person when it comes to pasta dishes. This was a home run for sure! Definitely becoming a regular

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Jessica!

  40. Carol M says:

    5 stars
    Making these right now. I have been making another version of stuffed shells, I just came across your recipe and I love pesto so I thought I would try it out. Can’t wait to try them out tonight.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hope you enjoyed the meal, Carol!

  41. Amanda Briggs says:

    5 stars
    My family absolutely loves this recipe! We just had it again, tonight. The pesto is such a smart addition having so many of the needed ingredients for good Italian dishes. Bravo Blair!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much, Amanda! We’re so glad you enjoy the recipe!

  42. Tessa says:

    5 stars
    My favorite recipe for stuffed shells, it’s so delicious and honestly it sounds and looks a lot more difficult than what it actually is. So worth it.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much, Tessa!

  43. Kathy jones says:

    I made this recently and my family and I loved it. Thank you

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We’re so happy to hear this, Kathy!

  44. Shelby says:

    5 stars
    About to cook and wanted to add mushrooms. Any advice on if this would be a good addition?

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Hi Shelby,
      We haven’t tested it, but you should be able to add mushrooms! We recommend sautéeing them before adding them to the filling.

    2. Michele says:

      This sounds like a good idea, thanks will be trying it tonight.

  45. Michele says:

    Having not made stuffed shells in a while , I wanted to look up a recipe to remind myself how to make them. When I came across Seasonedmom.com needless to say I am glad I did, as soon the picture popped up my mouth was watering. I have all the ingredients and will be making these tonight. Thanks seasonedmom.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We’re so glad you found us, Michele! We hope you enjoy it.

  46. David says:

    4 stars
    Pro: Truly the best tasting stuffed shells I’ve ever had.
    Con: The cooking time (for me at least) was considerably longer than estimated—and I have a great Kitchen Aid oven. Instead of the 30 mins covered and 10 mins uncovered cooking time, it would have been more like 45 to 50 mins covered and another 10 to 15 uncovered for them to be baked through and served hot. I say “would have been” because after 30 mins I had to take them out and finish them in batches in the microwave for several mins. How good they tasted made up for the extra time, but I would just suggest adding appx 30 mins to the total time for this recipe.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thanks for your feedback, David!

    2. Sue says:

      Yummy! Of course, I made it my own by omitting parm cheese, and pesto and egg. Substitute cottage cheese. I cut in half, just 2 of us. Prego sauce is always my choice. Added red pepper flakes, and extra pepper cheese when reheating. Boyfriend said, add that to your arsenal! We loved it! Thanks!

      1. The Seasoned Mom says:

        Thank you for the feedback, Sue! We’re so glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  47. Chris Matson says:

    5 stars
    My family loves this! I us3d 1/2 mild Italian sausage and 1/2 ground beef, we think it’s the best!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thanks so much, Chris!

  48. Lee says:

    5 stars
    My 3 kids and husband love it. It’s a dish that they always request now.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Amazing! We’re so glad it was a hit!

  49. Trevor Kennedy says:

    5 stars
    This was my very first “pasta bake” and I must say that due to your simple instructions, everything came along swimmingly! My very picky Husband, Son and Grandson is head over heals for this dish!! I did, however, use Italian sausage in place of the beef and I used cottage cheese in place of ricotta and everything turned out splendidly.
    Thanks Again,
    Trevor

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      I’m so glad to hear that it was a success, Trevor. Thank you for letting me know!

  50. Megan B says:

    5 stars
    SO delicious. I’ll definitely be making this again.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you, Megan!

  51. Nazari K. says:

    I made this recipe with Italian sausage and it tastes so much better! I also made a batch using crab in the filling and homemade alfredo sauce! It was all a huge hit!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Oooh, the crab version sounds great! I agree, Italian sausage adds really nice flavor. 🙂

  52. Melissa says:

    Can I make this the day before? Looks great!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Yes! The dish can be assembled, covered with foil, and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Or, leftover baked stuffed pasta shells will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Let the dish sit on the counter and come to room temperature for about 1 hour before reheating. Cover the dish with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven just until warmed through (about 20-30 minutes). You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 1 minute.

      Hope this helps!

  53. Katie Anderson says:

    5 stars
    These were amazing… Thank you!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you so much, Katie!

  54. Donna says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is right on! My family loved it! I made it with both ground beef and hot Italian sausage. It was hearty and very delicious. I also made my own spaghetti sauce. I put finely chopped fresh basil on top and it made a beautiful presentation as well. Thank you for sharing.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you for trying it out, Donna! We’re so happy it was a hit!

  55. Karin says:

    5 stars
    Yum! The picky eaters even took 2nds!

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      We’re so happy to hear this!

  56. Jan says:

    I am making this dish to take to a friend having surgery. She would like to stick it in the freezer and pull it out when needed. Would I just prepare the dish but not bake it? I assume bring to room temperature and bake at the same temp in this recipe? Thanks so much for any help you can provide.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Jan! That’s such a nice thing to do for her! Here are the make-ahead instructions:

      How to Freeze
      If you would like to make the casserole in advance, simply assemble the dish (but do not bake). Cover the dish with foil and either refrigerate for up to 24 hours; or, if freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil. Keep in freezer for up to 3 months.

      How to Cook from Frozen
      When ready to bake, you can either thaw the stuffed shells in the refrigerator overnight (and then let sit on the counter and come to room temp before you bake according to the recipe instructions); or you can bake the stuffed shells directly from the freezer at 350°F for about 60-70 minutes (or until heated through). Don’t forget to remove the foil during the final 10 minutes of baking to allow the cheese to brown on top!

  57. Julie says:

    An AMAZING recipe! Truly the best stuffed pasta shell recipe ever! Love the pesto in the filling! Delicious with garlic bread and a salad. Thank you for your outstanding recipes!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thank you, Julie!

  58. Susan says:

    5 stars
    This is one of my family’s favorite meals. At least one of my kids requests it for their birthday dinner!!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Yay! That’s such an honor. Thank you, Susan!