Pasta shells & beef



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

Jumbo shells pasta: I 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. While similar, these large shells are a different shape from manicotti, which are large tubes of pasta designed for stuffing.

Ground beef: adds hearty texture and great flavor to both the ricotta filling and the sauce. You can substitute with another type of ground meat, such as Italian sausage, ground chicken, or ground turkey.

Onion: for savory flavor.

Shredded Italian cheese blend and grated Parmesan cheese: goes into the filling and on top of the casserole. Freshly-grated parmesan is always my preference, but pre-grated cheese straight from the can is perfectly fine here as well.

Ricotta cheese: gives the filling that rich, creamy texture. To make these stuffed shells without ricotta, you can substitute with cottage cheese. If using cottage cheese, strain off some of the liquid first or use a whipped cottage cheese so that you don’t end up with a watery filling.

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 spaghetti sauce for a nice shortcut