Recipe: Un-Stuffed Shells

I love stuffed shells, but I’ve made them all of about once in the past two years. It’s a sloppy process and it takes forever and I just can’t usually be bothered. But my mouth watered every time I’d flip past my recipe. One day I decided to give this version a whirl. I’ll never stuff a shell again!


1 lb. ground sirloin
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, all to taste
1 lb. medium shell pasta
1 container ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 large egg
1 jar spaghetti sauce (26 oz.), any variety


Brown the ground meat, breaking up as it cooks. Season it well while it cooks with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, whatever you like. Be liberal with the seasoning because you’re not only seasoning the meat but the entire dish. When fully cooked, drain and set aside.

Meantime, cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. I like to under-cook it slightly. Drain and set aside.

While the meat and pasta are cooking, you can prepare the “filling”. Squeeze the moisture out of your thawed spinach using a (clean!) kitchen towel, and place in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the chunks. Slightly beat the egg and add it to the spinach, stirring. Add the ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses, mixing well after each addition. Add the spaghetti sauce and mix well.

Once the meat and pasta are cooked, add them to the cheese/sauce mixture. Spoon the whole thing into a baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 35-45 minutes. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.


  • Feel free to skip the meat. In fact my original stuffed shell recipe didn’t call for it, I just prefer the extra protein.
  • “Healthy it up” a bit by using part-skim cheeses and whole wheat pasta. I can’t remember the last time I used full-fat cheese or white pasta and we honestly can’t tell a difference anymore.
  • If you’re really in a rush, you can skip cooking the noodles entirely. Just add a full cup of water to the spaghetti sauce, mixing well, before adding it to the cheese mixture. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and bake (covered) for a full hour. The pasta will cook up just fine. The extra water keeps it from becoming too dry.
  • Don’t skip cooking the meat. 🙂
  • A printable version of this recipe can be found here.

Many thanks to my photographer!
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This entry was posted in All Recipes, Beef, Cooking, Main Dish, Pasta and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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