These Italian Stuffed Shells for dinner tonight! We used a meaty filling along with spinach and ricotta cheese in this hearty pasta recipe!
A Stuffed Shells Recipe From My Italian Grandmother
Grandma Annie made everything from scratch. Like, everything. It wasn’t until she was well in her 80’s that she started using any kind of short cuts like jarred marinara sauce or canned bread crumbs from the store.
I guess that’s why everything she made tasted so good.
The filling for these Italian Stuffed Shells is inspired by her ravioli filling using beef, pork and veal with spinach. If she had any filling leftover she’d use it to make a few stuffed shells or add it to a lasagna. Also, nothing went to waste – I guess when you’re taking the time to make everything from scratch you really don’t want to waste it!
How Do You Make This Italian Stuffed Shells Recipe?
The filling for these stuffed shells starts by browning up some the meat. These days we call this combination of meats a “meatloaf mix”, a mixture of pork, beef and veal. You can find meatloaf mix in most grocery stores right in the butcher department.
Start by cooking a box of shells according to the package directions. We like to drain pasta shells a minute or two shy of the cooking directions since we’re baking them in the oven, too.
Brown the meat in a skillet with a little olive oil. Drain any drippings from the pan and then add chopped spinach and a few seasonings and let it cool. Once the meat has cooled slightly, you can stir in ricotta and parmesan cheese.
Fill the shells with the meat filling and add them to a baking dish with marinara sauce on the bottom.
You can use a homemade marinara sauce like we did, or buy your favorite store-bought sauce. Get a large jar if you do buy it, you’ll need about 5 cups. We’ve also made this recipe with a jar of store bought Alfredo Sauce for a super creamy shells recipe!
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil from the baking dish and bake for another 10 minutes to melt the cheese. You can add more mozzarella cheese than we did here, we wanted you to be able to see the delicious Italian Stuffed Shells underneath!
What Can I Serve This Stuffed Shell Recipe With?
- Homemade Garlic Bread
- Caesar Salad with Creamy Dressing
- Broccoli with Buttered Bread Crumbs
- Steamed Artichokes with Cheese
These meat and spinach filled stuffed shells remind me of my Italian Grandmother!
- 16 ounce box jumbo pasta shells
- 2 pounds meatloaf mix (pork, beef and veal combined)
- 1 (10 oz.) box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cups ricotta cheese (part-skim or regular)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 5 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought)
- Cook the shells according to package directions and drain.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meat to brown, crumbling as it cooks. Drain any drippings from the pan.
- Add the spinach, salt, pepper, dried oregano, garlic powder and dried basil. Transfer the meat filling to a large bowl and then stir in the ricotta and parmesan cheese.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Add about a cup of sauce to the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Stuff the cooked pasta shells with the beef filling and add in an even layer to the baking dish.
- Pour more sauce over the top to cover the shells and then top with the mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil, then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes to melt and brown the cheese.
If your shells don’t all fit into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, grab another 8″ x 8″ baking dish for the rest.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stove Top/Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: pasta recipe, stuffed shells, dinner recipes, ground beef recipes