I’ve lightened up a familiar favorite with these Meaty Cheese Stuffed Shells! Giant pasta shells are stuffed with a ground beef and cheese mixture, topped with an easy, fresh pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese and then baked to melty, cheesy perfection!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram for, oh about 4 months (thank you!), then you probably saw these adorable little guys already as my leftovers made their way to the freezer!
The recipe makes about 50 shells, which is kind of a lot for two people, but if you are going to go to the “trouble” of stuffing shells, you should definitely freeze the unbaked leftovers.
That way one night, months down the road, your husband can get super excited about some meaty cheesy baked goodness with zero effort on your part. It’s the very definition of a win-win. (I’ll bet you $20 mine is on his way to the freezer now just to see if there are any left…)
Spoiler Alert: There aren’t!
I say “trouble” because, while stuffed shells may look difficult to your guests or family, piping the filling from a gallon plastic baggie makes filling these adorable shells quick and easy. Just make sure to cut the hole large enough to allow the meaty, cheesy filling to squeeze out easily. You don’t want to lose any of those bits of ground beef or herbs!
Umm and don’t lose track of the plastic corner you cut off…no one wants that in their stuffed shell. (It sounds obvious but…well, never mind)
In this classic Italian dish, I reduced the fat without sacrificing any flavor by using a mixture of low fat cottage cheese and part skim ricotta and adding handfuls of fresh herbs. The fresh herbs and ground beef add so much flavor, you don’t even miss the extra cheese.
Traditionally stuffed shells are vegetarian but the addition of ground beef will fill you up without expanding the waistline: each serving of 6 shells has over 28 grams of protein!
You can also leave the ground beef out to make these vegetarian again…no love will be lost! 🙂
With this recipe, as with all my recipes, fresh is best. A recipe is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. I always use fresh herbs, fresh mozzarella, and real Parmesan. No, not that stuff that comes in a jar and miraculously doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Think about that for a second…eww.
I also like to make my own quick red sauce. It takes less than 10 minutes to pull together and will be healthier and fresher than store bought.
Serve these meaty cheese stuffed shells with a large side salad for the perfect meal!
Just a few little notes to ensure success: Please, please, please do not substitute regular canned tomatoes for the San Marzano tomatoes. They are a little more expensive, but worth every penny. Promise.
Fresh herbs are really what bring the flavor here. Dried just aren’t going to cut it. You can try but consider yourselves warned.
Lastly, there is less flavor in the preshredded mozzarella cheese. If you use that, just know that it won’t taste as good or you will need to use more (read: more calories) than fresh.