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Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Cheese Stuffed Shells are a hearty and delicious pasta dish that is filled with three cheeses and topped with a ground beef meat sauce. It is pure comfort food that is perfect for a cold winter night dinner at home, or for feeding a crowd!

Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Stuffed shells are one of those meals that I make that I know my kids are going to love. They pretty much always love any sort of pasta with meat sauce, and how can you go wrong with big shells filled with three types of cheeses?! This is a dish I’ve been making for years, and love saving it for a special occasion. The first time I made it was during a cabin weekend with our big group of friends – way back when none of us had kids!

Suffice to say, a LOT has changed since then, but this recipe keeps on being made and enjoyed. I don’t think that will ever change.

Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

What You’ll Need

  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Romano Cheese
  • Egg
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Parsley
  • White Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Italian Sausage
  • Red Wine
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Salt

How to Make Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

This recipe is definitely not one of those easy weeknight meals that I love to post about. This recipe is definitely a labor of love. To start, you’ll make the meat sauce. Begin by sautéing the onion in olive oil, followed by the garlic and Italian sausage. Once the sausage is cooked, add the red wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, and salt, and let it cook for 20-25 minutes. You want it to reduce to intensify the flavor.

While the meat sauce is cooking, cook the pasta shells and prepare the cheese filling.

To make the cheese filling, simply mix together ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, egg, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper until combined. I like to put the filling in a large Ziploc bag and then cut one of the corners to make it super easy to pipe into the stuffed shells.

Once the sauce has finished cooking, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Pipe the cheese filling into the cooked jumbo shells and then arrange in the baking dish. Top with the remaining meat sauce and then sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes – until golden brown and bubbly! Serve, and enjoy.

Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells Frequently Asked Questions

Can these be made vegetarian?

Sure! Simply omit the Italian sausage from the sauce.

Can these stuffed shells be a freezer meal?

Yes! Simply prepare the shells all the way up until baking. Then cover with foil, and freeze. Once you’re ready to cook it, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then bake according to instructions. You may need 5-10 additional minutes if it’s still a little frozen.

Can I use a different type of cheese?

Definitely. I’ve used an Italian blend of shredded cheese in place of the Romano cheese before, all Parmesan cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese instead of Parmesan cheese and all of these ways have turned out great.

Are these stuffed shells good reheated?

Yes! I actually think they are better the next day.

Can I use ground beef instead of Italian sausage?

You can. You could also use ground turkey if you prefer. The flavor will be slightly different, but it will still be delicious!

Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

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Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Cheese Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

A hearty recipe for shells stuffed with three cheeses and topped with a beef meat tomato sauce.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: beef, comfort food, dinner, ground beef, main dish, parmesan, pasta, ricotta, stuffed shells
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Calories: 981kcal
Author: Taylor


  • 8 oz jumbo pasta shells

Three Cheese Filling

  • 30 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz Parmesan cheese grated and divided
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese grated
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 basil leaves chopped
  • 4 tablespoons parsley minced and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste

Meat Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a white onion chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 28 ounces can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounces can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the Italian sausage and brown, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
  • Pour in red wine and let it cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, and stir. Then add the sugar and salt.
  • Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  • Cover and cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine Ricotta, half of the Parmesan, Romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil, and 2 tablespoons of parsley.
  • Stir until combined.
  • Transfer mixture to large freezer sized Ziploc bag and set in refrigerator until needed.
  • While meat sauce is still cooking, cook the pasta shells for half the cooking time. Make sure not to overcook.
  • Drain and rinse in cool water, and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F when meat sauce is done cooking.
  • To assemble, coat the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with about 1/3 of the sauce.
  • Fill each shell with cheese mixture, by cutting the end of the plastic baggie off and piping it into each shell. Place the shells face down and top with remaining sauce.
  • Sprinkle with other half of Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.


Calories: 981kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 61g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 23g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 2133mg | Potassium: 1163mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 1820IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 922mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @greensnchocolate to let me know!
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Recipe Rating

  1. This is a fantastic dish to feed a group! I don’t use shells enough and you’ve got me thinking about my menu for this week. Happy New Year!

  2. I agree with Suzi! I would also like to say that I feel honored to have been at a meal that ended up with a blog post and I can’t wait for that apple pie recipe!