This is The Best Baked Stuffed Shells recipe you will ever come across. Ground meat, ricotta cheese, mushrooms baked in tomato sauce and covered in cheese! Dinner doesn’t get better than that!
Feel free to use any combination of ground meat when making this recipe. Our favorite combinations are turkey and pork or pork and beef but you can use whichever ground meats you prefer.
You don’t even have to combine ground meats for that matter. Sometimes I just use plain old ground beef and so can you! All will taste great no matter which meat you have on hand or is your favorite! No one will complain!This recipe needs to be on your bucket list if you are a fan a pasta and is definitely worth the effort! Once you stuff one or two shells you get the hang of filling them right away. It is much easier than it looks!Usually I serve The Best Baked Stuffed Shells with more sauce than shown in the pictures because I love sauce. You will have to decide how much sauce is just right for you!I used to serve The Best Baked Stuffed Shells with garlic bread or garlic bread with cheese. I used to love dipping the bread in the sauce which is delicious by the way! Now that I am getting older I am eating less bread and usually just serve these shells with salad!For this recipe you can use two 8×8 pans or just one 9×13. The shells tend to all fit better in the two 8×8 pans but more often than not I use the 9×13 pan. Just because it is easier I think.
Also, when I am making them for my family I make all of the shells fit in the 9×13 pan and don’t care as much how the shells look when I serve them. Neither do they. You also have the option of using more or less cheese on top and any kind of cheese as well while you bake this wonderful dish. I use whatever I have on hand but usually that means we use mozzarella or a mozzarella cheddar blend. Both are so tasty!
The Best Baked Stuffed Shells
- 1 large box pasta shells, jumbo
- 2 large jars pasta sauce, tomato based - or my homemade marinara
- 1 pound any combination of ground beef, pork, veal, sausage or turkey
- 1 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups mushrooms,fresh, finely chopped
- 2 tblsp garlic, minced
- 1 pkg. chopped frozen spinach
- 1 tub ricotta cheese, 16 oz.
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded to taste
- 2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated or shredded to taste
- 2 large eggs
- 1 heaping tblsp dried Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- olive oil
- cooking spray
Thaw and squeeze dry the spinach in paper towel. Try to get as much water out as possible. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a teaspoon or so of salt and roughly a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Stir regularly to prevent shells from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside. We usually just leave them in the sink.
Lightly spray 2 8x8 pans, a 9x13 inch pan or the equivalent with cooking spray.
Coat the bottom of each pan with tomato sauce, either store bought or my homemade marinara sauce. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until tender, around 5 minutes. Add the ground meat or meats and cook, stirring regularly, until done. Add the squeezed spinach and continue stirring for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.
In a separate, large bowl, whip together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Next add the meat mixture, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and Italian seasoning to the ricotta mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling into each cooked pasta shell. Place the filled shells in the prepared dish or dishes with the opening facing up. Don't use the broken pasta shells unless you have to. You will likely have some extras. Each shell should be over flowing and touching each other.
Pour more marinara sauce over the filled shells and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Then turn the oven up to broil for a few minutes until cheese is nicely browned if desired. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!