Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells is a melty, cheesy, comforting meal with freshly made tomato sauce, ground beef, and Italian seasoning
This Stuffed Shells recipe is a delicious alternative to classic pasta dishes. The ground beef stuffed shells have Italian herbs, homemade tomato sauce, and melty cheese. So, you get the same basic flavors of Spaghetti, but cooked inside the jumbo pasta shells.
The combination of sauce, cheese, and jumbo shells with ground beef makes an impressive and hearty dish. Serving the sauce and cooked ground beef in the center of the jumbo pasta shells is more unique and fun than a typical pasta recipe. Additionally, this family-pleasing comfort meal is still easy enough to make for weeknight dinner recipes.
With easy recipe instructions, you can prep the entire dish in a few minutes. Once the homemade sauce and cheesy beef are added to the cooked pasta shells, you just need to pop it in the oven for 25 minutes to finish. Then they’ll come out the perfect melty, cheesy Italian shells. Enjoy the Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells with a side of simple tossed green salad and Garlic Bread to complete the delicious meal.
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Key Ingredients in Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
- Jumbo Shells: Jumbo pasta shells are the perfect type of pasta for a fun, kid-friendly dinner. Instead of regular noodles, everyone can enjoy their own giant shell and delicious fillings.
- Ground Beef Filling: Use one pound of ground beef as the simple base for the other ingredients. It absorbs flavor from the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning, and it makes the whole meal super filling.
- Cheese: Stuffed shells are topped with melty mozzarella cheese to make the dish amazingly gooey and comforting. Then it’s all finished off with a sprinkling of parmesan for added flavor.
How to Make Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
- Prep Time: Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Then follow the box instructions to cook the jumbo pasta shells. Drain the pasta water. Lay the cooked pasta out in the baking dish.
- Brown Ground Beef: Add the ground beef and diced medium onion to a pot over medium-high heat. Stir as you cook to brown the beef mixture. Then drain off any excess fat from the meat mixture. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Meat Sauce Mixture: Then add the Italian seasoning and diced tomatoes to the cooked meat. Continue cooking over medium heat to bring it to a simmer. Then stir in 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Mix the cheese so that it melts over the seasoned ground beef and tomatoes. Then scoop the ground beef filling into the shells
- Fresh Tomato Sauce: Add the marinara sauce and tomato paste to the pot, and set it to medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Then spoon it over the pasta shells on the baking dish. Finish them off with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.
- Baking Time: Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then top it all off with parmesan before serving the Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
Along with the fresh sauce and hearty ground beef, these shells are also stuffed with melty mozzarella cheese. The cheese serves 2 functions. It coats the other filling ingredients, making everything bind together nicely. It also makes the dish more rich, appealing, and delicious.
This dish is excellent to make ahead. You can cook and assemble everything in the baking dish, then cover it and put it in the fridge. Pop it in the oven the next day when you’re ready to prep your dinner. You will probably need to add a little cooking time though, as you’re cooking the dish cold from the refrigerator.
Variations on Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
- Seasonings: Add extra Italian herbs like fresh basil, parsley, and oregano to enhance the flavor. You can also add spices like onion powder, red pepper flakes, or garlic salt to your Stuffed Shells.
- Healthier Version: An easy way to make beef recipes healthier is by using lean ground beef. You can also use other lean ground meats like ground turkey, or ground chicken. Top off your healthier Stuffed Shells with reduced fat mozzarella cheese.
- Alfredo: If you prefer a creamy sauce, you can make an Alfredo Pasta Sauce mixture for the filling. Instead of using ground beef, mix the simple sauce with ground chicken. You can also sauté some mushrooms for a chicken & mushroom filling. Then combine the sauce, chicken, and melty cheese to make the creamy filling.
- Cheese: You can try out different kinds of cheeses in Stuffed Shells like provolone, Pepper Jack, and ricotta cheese in the stuffed shells.
Serving Ideas for Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
- Salad: Salad is a great choice to pair with Italian Stuffed Shells. The shells are so rich and heavy, its nice to have something light to pair them with. Try a classic Wedge Salad, Cucumber Tomato Salad, or make your own salad with your favorite ingredients and top with Olive Garden Italian Dressing.
- Skewers: Stuffed Shells are such a fun, unique way to serve and Italian meal. Serve them alongside a fun side dish like skewers or kabobs. Assemble your favorite vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, or onions onto a skewer stick, season with Italian seasoning and grill or roast them. You could also try Italian Antipasto Skewers, which you could serve warm or cold.
- Bread: What goes better with Italian food than warm, delicious, crusty bread? These Shells, with bread to soak up the sauce, is a classic crowd-pleasing meal. To make things easy on the day you want to serve Stuffed Shells, prepare them ahead the day before. Then on the day-of make some Garlic Bread, Pesto Cheesy Bread, or Crusty French Bread Rolls fresh to serve alongside the shells.
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How to Store Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells
- Serve: Don’t leave stuffed pasta shells at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Store: You can let any leftover beef stuffed pasta shells cool down before you cover the dish with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Additionally, you could also transfer the stuffed shells to an airtight container. Put the prepared baking dish or storage container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
- Freeze: As long as they’re properly sealed, Beefy Italian Stuffed Shells make the ultimate prep-ahead freezer meal. You can freeze them for up to 3 months. Then let them thaw and reheat in the oven to serve.
- 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound ground beef , (85/15)
- 1/2 yellow onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 14 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese , shredded, divided
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese , shredded
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley , minced
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the pasta shells in a pot according to the directions on the box and drain.
- Add the ground beef and onion to the pot on medium high heat and brown well.
- Drain the fat.
- Add the garlic, stir to cook for 30 seconds.
- Add Italian seasoning and canned diced tomatoes; cooking until it comes to a simmer.
- Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese until just melted.
- Scoop the mixture into the jumbo pasta shells and place into a 9×13 baking pan.
- Add the marinara sauce and tomato paste to the pot and turn on medium heat.
- Stir well and bring to a simmer, then spoon the mixture over and around the stuffed shells.
- Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in a covered pan for 25 minutes.
- Garnish with parmesan cheese and parsley before serving.