Recipe: Stuffed Shells

Posted on May 23, 2010


This recipe serves 6-8.


  • 16 ounces Ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 hot Italian sausages
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 16 ounces cooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 48 ounces spaghetti sauce


  1. Boil a large pot of water.  When it has boiled, add the shells.  Cook for 8 minutes.  If they seem too crunchy, it will probably be okay; just cook the shells in the oven for longer.  The sauce will provide the moisture to cook them the rest of the way, and if you overcook the shells you will not be able to stuff them.
  2. Cook sausages.  I recommend covering them in water in a glass bowl and microwaving for about 10 minutes.  Once they are out, chop them into small pieces.
  3. Cook ground beef in pan, stirring frequently to make sure the pieces are small.  Add chopped onion, salt, and pepper.  Mix in sausage, remove from heat, and let cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. In the meantime, mix in ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese,  egg, 3/4 of the mozzarella cheese (12 oz),  and basil.
  6. Cook spinach in water, in pan.  Then squeeze out water; you can doing this by cooling the spinach in cold water and then taking it out in a handful and literally squeezing it.
  7. Add spinach to cheese mixture, taking care to distribute it evenly.
  8. Hopefully by this time, the meat mixture has cooled.  If it is too hot, it will melt the cheese and all hell will break loose.  If it seems cool enough, stir into the cheese mixture.
  9. Now pour in about 1/2 inch of sauce into the pan.  You’ll need to save at least 1/4 of your sauce for the tops.
  10. Stuff the shells!  This recipe actually produces too much stuffing, so to get the proportions right you’ll need to really fill the shells.  Stuff the shells full enough so that there’s about a 1 cm gap between the edges at the top.
  11. Spoon remaining sauce on top of shells, and cover with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Vegetarian option:

Omit the ground beef and sausage.  This will change how much you stuff the shells.  You don’t need to completely close the shells- leaving them open by a few millimeters in the center should result in the correct proportions.


  • Spaghetti sauce.  In case you didn’t notice, you use a lot.  This can be expensive if you tend towards the nicer sauces.  But sauce is important in this recipe, so you want it to taste good.  My hack?  I use one 26 oz bottle of cheap spaghetti sauce (Valu-Time brand from Meijers, which I can get for a buck), and put it into a blender with some 16 oz dented can of diced, whole, or tomato puree, and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  Yum!
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