This Beef Stuffed Shells Pasta recipe is loaded with hearty beef and dairy-free cheese stuffed inside pasta shells that are then smothered in marinara sauce and topped with more cheese. The Ultimate family pasta night that can only get better if you serve alongside this Homemade Garlic Bread.
Table of Contents
These stuffed pasta shells are loaded with ground beef, dairy-free cream cheese, and dairy-free mozzarella cheese for a rich and savory dish that’s bound to please everyone at your table. Serve with this Air Fryer Garlic Bread for soaking up any extra sauce.
Pasta nights has always been everyone’s favorite at my house, and this stuffed beef pasta shells are totally next level! Much like my Meat Lasagna the combination of pasta (any kind of shape) with beef and red sauce is always a win.
Cast iron skillet or baking dish?
This recipe was prepared using a cast iron skillet as it is ideal for sautéeing the meat, onion, and garlic and it can go in the oven to bake the stuffed shells. By baking the shells in the cast iron that you used to cook the beef, that’s one less pan to clean at the end, in this case the baking dish.
If you don’t have a large enough cast iron skillet you can cook the meat, onion, and garlic in a skillet or frying pan over the stove and then bake the stuffed shells in a baking pan. Either way, your shells will be delicious.
Why You’ll Love These Shells Stuffed With Ground Beef
Comfort food: Creamy, cheesy and hearty these stuffed shells are comfort food at its best.
Crowd pleaser: Who doesn’t love beef and cheese stuffed pasta topped with more cheese?
Dairy free: Using non dairy alternatives makes these baked stuffed shells ideal for those who suffer from a dairy intolerance or allergy.
Ingredients For Stuffed Shells With Ground Beef
- Shell pasta – Use shell pasta for these stuffed pasta shells with beef, shells are also known as conchiglioni.
- Marinara sauce – Use store bought marinara sauce or make your own cherry tomato sauce or multi purpose tomato sauce.
- Ground beef – Use lean ground beef for stuffing in these ground beef stuffed shells.
- Dairy free cream cheese – See ingredient photo for the brand used here or use regular cream cheese if dairy isn’t a concern.
- Dairy free mozzarella – See ingredient photo for non dairy option or use regular mozzarella cheese shredded.
- Sun dried tomato sauce -Use sundried tomatoes in oil.
- Egg – Any type of egg will help bind the cheese together.
- Garlic – Freshly minced garlic cloves are best but jarred also works.
- Onion – Use an onion or a shallot, diced, to add flavor.
- Olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil is best but any kind is fine.
- Salt and pepper – Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Fresh basil – Add fresh basil to taste.
How To Make This Stuffed Shells Recipe With Ground Beef
- Step 1: Sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and then add the ground beef and cook until no longer red. Half way through the cooking process, add sun dried tomato and season with salt and pepper. Stir in half jar of the marinara sauce and set aside.
- Step 2: In a medium bowl combine cream cheese, a portion of the shredded mozzarella cheese, and egg and stir until the thick mixture is uniform.
- Step 3: Cook pasta shells according to package instructions making sure the shells are cooked al dente. Do not overcook the shells!
- Step 4: To prepare the shells, pour a thin layer marinara sauce into the bottom of your skillet or baking dish so the shells won’t stick.
- Step 5: Fill each shell with half the cheese mixture and half the beef in sauce, until all the pasta shells are filled. Place the filled shells on the skillet or baking dish.
- Step 6: Top the stuffed shells with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Step 7: Bake, covered, for 35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
Tips and Variations
Change up the beef. Instead of ground beef use ground turkey or chicken. Or make this stuffed shells with ground beef recipe vegetarian and use a plant-based ground beef alternative.
Try a different shape pasta. If you love the idea of stuffed pasta but don’t have any shells you can stuff manicotti, cannelloni or lasagna noodles.
Use dairy-based cheese. If you can tolerate dairy go ahead and use ricotta or cream cheese and mozzarella cheese instead of the nondairy alternatives.
Don’t overstuff the shells. Fill the shells about 80% full as if they are too full they will fall apart.
For this recipe I used the Le Creuset Signature Cast Iron Everyday Pan. However any cast iron skillet will work!
You will also need a large pasta pot with strainer basket. I really like this one!
And kitchen utensils.
The difference between manicotti and stuffed shells is the shape of the pasta. Manicotti are long tubular-shaped pasta while shells are cylindrical.
Yes, you can freeze stuffed pasta shells both unbaked and baked.
If you ended up with runny shells it could be because your stuffing was too runny. Try thickening them up next time by adding more cheese, beef or tomato paste.
Make ahead and storage
Make ahead: If you like to meal prep you can prepare this stuffed shells with beef recipe a few days before you want to serve it. Alternatively, you can prep it until the point it requires baking and place it in the fridge overnight to bake the next day.
Storage: Leftover cheese and beef stuffed shells will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make sure to store the shells in an airtight container so they don’t dry out.
If you like the cheese on top of your shells to be nicely browned and bubbling, turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes before removing the shells from the oven.
Looking for more pasta recipes?
- Classic Chicken Broccoli Pasta
- Garlicky Kale and Mushroom Pasta
- Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Shrimp Scampi Pasta
- Instant Pot Creamy Alfredo Pasta
Beef Stuffed Shells Pasta
- Cast Iron Skillet
- 16 oz shell pasta (conchiglioni)
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 1 lb ground beef
- 6 oz DF creamy cheese (see ingredient photos)
- 2 cups DF mozzarella cheese shredded
- 3 tbsp sun dried tomato sauce, preserve
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 onion or shallot diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh basil to taste
- In a large skillet heat oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add in ground beef and cook until no longer red. About half way through add sun dried tomato and season with salt and pepper. Stir in about half jar of marinara sauce. Set aside
- In a medium bowl add creamy cheese or ricotta like cheese (dairy-free), 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (also dairy-free) and egg. Stir until uniform. Mixture should be thick.
- Meanwhile cook pasta shells according to package instructions. Do not overcook the shells it must be al dente!
- When ready to put it together, pour some marinara sauce onto the bottom of your cast iron skillet or baking dish. Spread thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan so the shells won't stick.
- Fill each cavity of the pasta shells about half with cheese mixture and half with beef in sauce. Do this until all the pasta shells are filled. Place each shell on the skillet or baking dish until completely full.
- Top stuffed shells with remaining marinara sauce and then top with remaining shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Bake at 350F degrees for 35 minutes, covered in foil to avoid pasta to dry out. Cheese should be nice and melted. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.