Jump to Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links.

These cozy and comforting Ground Beef Stuffed Shells are a delicious meal the whole family will love. Packed with protein, veggies, browned beef and so much flavor–these will be a constant request. Easy to make ahead and freezer friendly!

Ground beef, cheese and spinach stuffed pasta shells covered with melted mozzarella and chopped basil.
Save this recipe!
Enter your email and I’ll send it to you, plus get new recipes from me regularly!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Looking for a delicious and super cheesy ground beef recipe? Look no further! These stuffed shells with ground beef are going to be a new weekly dinner recipe that the whole family will love!

This recipe is a meaty variation of my favorite baked pasta dish and it is a great recipe to wow company, serve to a loved one needing some extra thoughtfulness or a delicious weeknight dinner–it checks all the boxes for sure!

If you are a big pasta fan, try this Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta, Cheesy Pumpkin Ricotta Pasta Bake, or this Creamy One Pot Pasta!

Why You Will Love These Stuffed Shells with Ground Beef:

  • They are so cozy and cheesy and comforting! The trifecta I love! I will make this easy stuffed shells recipe all year long but it is for sure the very best when you need some good old comfort food.
  • A good amount of protein for a pasta dish. Using cottage cheese or ricotta cheese if you prefer along with the ground beef packs in about 11 grams of protein per shell. If you have 3 shells for your meal that is 33 grams of protein–we will take it!
  • Perfect for make ahead options. The recipe I love making these beefy stuffed shells is because I can do all the prep work in the morning and then just pop them in the oven later that night to bake. Sometimes I will make them the night before too–whenever it fits in the schedule!
  • Freezer friendly! You can freeze this recipe before OR after baking. How amazing is that? It makes for a great dish to send over to a loved one who needs a meal during a tough time. They can freeze and then pop in the oven when they are ready to eat! See storage instructions below for details!
Plate with stuffed shells with ground beef topped with melted mozzarella and chopped parsley and basil.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • jumbo pasta shells: these are fairly large, about 3-4 inches in length. They are not to be confused with medium pasta shells or salad shells. You will need about 27-29 shells and a 12 ounce box of jumbo shells should have more than enough but I always boil the whole package because some will crack or break and not be usable so it’s better to play it safe.
  • ground beef: ground sirloin is what we most often use for a lean ground beef but as long as you drain the grease from the pan after browning, any ground beef or even ground turkey if you prefer is fine. You could use a pound of Italian sausage as well if you prefer. The recipe might say “ground beef shells” but make it to fit your needs!
  • spinach: I find frozen chopped spinach to work best as you can very easily remove excess liquid by wringing it out with a towel. If using fresh, you need to cook it and then wring out the excess water so that adds another step.
  • onion: chopped fine, and optional if you don’t prefer it
  • cottage cheese: this may be a bit controversial however I personally prefer cottage cheese over ricotta cheese. I know, I know. Sometimes ricotta is too paste like to me. I love using cottage cheese in my no boil lasagna recipe and it just has sort of stuck over the years. You can opt for whichever you prefer!
  • egg: one large egg, this helps as a binding agent to hold the cheese mixture together. If you have an allergy, you can omit the egg and should be ok overall still.
  • mozzarella: shredded mozzarella cheese–whatever your favorite, we love whole milk mozzarella. If you can shred it yourself, it will melt better since it doesn’t have the cellulose like pre-shredded cheese. You will use some mozzarella in the stuffing as well as melted on top in this recipe. You can opt for an Italian cheese blend as well if preferred.
  • parmesan: we use grated parmesan cheese, but shredded will work
  • garlic: minced garlic cloves are our preference but if you don’t have any on hand, it’s ok to just use about 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder instead.
  • seasoning: a bit of Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes along with sea salt and black pepper offers the perfect flavor to this dish. We also top with LOTS of fresh basil.
  • marinara: use your favorite. We are huge fans of Rao marinara but it can be very pricy so if it’s not on sale, I like to use Newman’s or another brand.
  • basil: fresh basil is a must for us–sprinkle it generously over top when it comes out of the oven for the most flavorful dish!

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Thaw spinach and wring out all the excess liquid--wring it out really really well so you don’t end up with watered down filling.
  • Add the spinach to a mixing bowl with 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, parmesan, cottage cheese, lightly beaten egg and seasoning. Stir will to combine and set aside while you prepare the shells and meat. *You can also do this step after the meat is browned so the meat can cool a bit longer, it’s up to you!
  • Boil the water for the pasta and cook the pasta until just under al dente, about 1 minute less than al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop from cooking. Very lightly toss in olive oil and place in an even layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for best results.
  • While the shells cook, heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and heat. Once glistening, add the onion and sauté until they start to become translucent.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet and break into pieces. Cook until no longer pink inside, about 7-10 minutes. Drain excess grease and set aside to cool a bit.
  • Add half of the slightly cooled meat to the cheese and spinach stuffing mixture and stir to combine.
  • Time to assemble the dish! Pour 1 1/2 cups of marinara into the bottom of a lightly sprayed 9×13 inch baking pan. Spread it so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  • Add the remaining cooked beef to the rest of the marinara to make a meat sauce for topping.
  • Stuff each cooked jumbo shell with about 2 1/2 – 3 Tablespoons of cheese and meat mixture. Place open side up in the pan lining them up in one even layer.
  • When all shells are stuffed, pour the marinara and meat mixture over top of the shells to cover. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella (or as much as your heart desires!) and cover with foil.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 25-30 minutes covered or until bubbling. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and starting to become slightly golden. Sprinkle freshly chopped basil over top.
  • Cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
Baked beef stuffed pasta shells in pan topped with freshly chopped herbs.

Recipe Tips

  • Make sure not to over cook your pasta shells. Cook the shells just under al dente for best results. When they bake, the marinara will cook them just slightly more so if you over boil them early on, they can turn to mush. They are also much easier to work with if you don’t overcook them!
  • Prep this dish up to 24 hours in advance. You can prepare the entire dish before baking up to a day ahead of time. If I do this, I don’t usually add the shredded cheese before baking, but if you want to deliver this to a friend to bake later or something like that, the cheese on top in the fridge will not be an issue!

Storage:

To store leftover stuffed shells, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for about 3-4 days. I find the flavor the next day is even better than freshly made so it’s a bonus if you have leftovers!

If you plan on eating this after that length of time, freeze the leftover pasta.

To freeze:

  • after baking: once you have baked the shells, allow them to cool completely. Transfer to an airtight, freezer safe container. I like to place a layer or aluminum foil or plastic wrap over top before closing the container but this is not entirely necessary.
  • before baking: if you want to freeze this recipe before baking, make sure the entirety of the top of shells is covered in marinara. Do not add the shredded cheese over top. Add that before baking. You can thaw and cook as directed or bake from frozen at 350°F for about 50-60 minutes, adding the shredded cheese over top in the last ten minutes.
Spoon with beef stuffed shell on it topped with melted cheese and chopped parsley and basil.

What to Serve with These Beef Stuffed Shells:

These beef stuffed shells are quite a full meal and will easily fill you up on their own, but if you want to serve them up with something, perhaps some parmesan roasted green beans or maybe air fryer broccoli.

A nice salad is another great idea and this spring green salad with burrata is always a fan favorite! Some freshly baked bread and you are set!

As for dessert? I am thinking a decadent no bake chocolate pie or this champagne lemon bundt cake if you want to go all out!

Other Recipes To Try:

HUNGRY FOR MORE? Subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for all the latest!

Tap stars to rate!
No ratings yet

Ground Beef Stuffed Shells

These cozy and comforting Ground Beef Stuffed Shells are a delicious meal the whole family will love. Packed with protein, veggies, browned beef and so much flavor–these will be a constant request. Easy to make ahead and freezer friendly!
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 27 stuffed shells

Ingredients 

  • 27-29 jumbo shells
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
  • 2 c small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 c shredded mozzarella, divided
  • ½ c grated parmesan
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb. ground sirloin
  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 28 oz. marinana sauce
  • ¼ c fresh basil, chopped
Save this recipe!
Enter your email and I’ll send it to you, plus get new recipes from me regularly!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Instructions 

  • Thaw spinach and wring out all the excess liquid–wring it out really really well so you don't end up with watered down filling.Add the spinach to a mixing bowl with 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, parmesan, cottage cheese, lightly beaten egg and seasoning. Stir will to combine and set aside while you prepare the shells and meat.
  • Boil the water for the pasta and cook the shells until just under al dente, about 1 minute less than al dente instructions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop from cooking. Very lightly toss in olive oil and place in an even layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for best results.
  • While the shells cook, heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and heat. Once glistening, add the onion and sauté until they become slightly translucent.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet and break into pieces. Cook until no longer pink inside, about 7-10 minutes. Drain excess grease and set aside to cool a briefly. Add half of the slightly cooled meat to the cheese and spinach stuffing mixture and stir to combine. (The other half of the meat will be added to marinara in step 6)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F at this time unless planning to bake at a later time.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups of marinara into the bottom of a lightly sprayed 9×13 inch baking pan. Spread it so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  • Add the remaining cooked beef and onion mixture to the rest of the marinara to make a meat sauce for topping. Stuff each cooked jumbo shell with about 2 1/2 – 3 Tablespoons of cheese and meat mixture. Place open side up in the pan lining them up in one even layer.
  • When all shells are stuffed, pour the marinara and meat mixture over top of the shells to cover. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella (or as much as your heart desires!) and cover with foil.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes covered or until bubbling. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and starting to become slightly golden. Sprinkle freshly chopped basil over top. Cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Make sure not to over cook your pasta shells. Cook the shells just under al dente for best results. When they bake, the marinara will cook them just slightly more so if you over boil them early on, they can turn to mush. They are also much easier to work with if you don’t overcook them!
Prep this dish up to 24 hours in advance. You can prepare the entire dish before baking up to a day ahead of time. If I do this, I don’t usually add the shredded cheese before baking, but if you want to deliver this to a friend to bake later or something like that, the cheese on top in the fridge will not be an issue!
 
Storage: To store leftover stuffed shells, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for about 3-4 days. I find the flavor the next day is even better than freshly made so it’s a bonus if you have leftovers!
If you plan on eating this after that length of time, freeze the leftover pasta.

To freeze:

  • after baking: once you have baked the shells, allow them to cool completely. Transfer to an airtight, freezer safe container. I like to place a layer or aluminum foil or plastic wrap over top before closing the container but this is not entirely necessary.
  • before baking: if you want to freeze this recipe before baking, make sure the entirety of the top of shells is covered in marinara. Do not add the shredded cheese over top. Add that before baking. You can thaw and cook as directed or bake from frozen at 350°F for about 50-60 minutes, adding the shredded cheese over top in the last ten minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 141kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 31mg, Sodium: 386mg, Potassium: 194mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 264IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 119mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question?Leave a comment below!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating