Elevate your culinary repertoire with this delectable rendition of Stuffed Shells, generously filled with a savoury meat filling. This dish marries Italian comfort with a touch of elegance, making it perfect for both special occasions and family gatherings. Jumbo pasta shells, cradling a succulent mixture of seasoned ground meat, ricotta, and herbs, are nestled in a velvety marinara sauce. Each bite offers a symphony of flavours and textures, showcasing the heartwarming essence of Italian cuisine. Follow this step-by-step guide to craft a dish that embodies both warmth and sophistication, creating memories around the dining table that will be cherished for years to come.
How To Make This Recipe
- 250g jumbo pasta shells
- 250g ground beef
- 250g ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 400g canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 100g mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Olive oil for greasing
- Cook the Pasta Shells:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- Prepare the Meat Filling:
- In a skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat until fully cooked. Drain any excess fat. Transfer the cooked beef to a large mixing bowl.
- Mix the Filling:
- To the cooked beef, add ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, beaten egg, minced garlic, chopped parsley, and chopped basil. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stuff the Shells:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Take each cooked pasta shell and fill it generously with the meat and cheese mixture. Arrange the stuffed shells in the prepared baking dish.
- Prepare the Tomato Sauce:
- In a separate bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Pour the tomato sauce over the stuffed shells, ensuring they are well-covered.
- Bake the Stuffed Shells:
- Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the shells are heated through.
- Add Mozzarella Cheese:
- Remove the foil and sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over the top. Return the dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Allow the dish to cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with additional chopped parsley if desired.
- Serve the Stuffed Shells with Meat hot, and savour the delightful combination of flavours and textures.
Tips Of Recipe
- Cook Pasta Al Dente: When boiling the pasta shells, be sure to cook them al dente (meaning they are still slightly firm when bitten). This ensures they hold their shape when stuffed and baked.
- Season the Meat Mixture Well: Season the ground beef mixture generously with salt, pepper, and herbs. This adds depth of flavour to the filling.
- Use Fresh Herbs: Whenever possible, opt for fresh herbs like parsley and basil. They bring a vibrant, aromatic quality to the dish.
- Drain Excess Fat: After cooking the ground beef, make sure to drain any excess fat. This prevents the filling from becoming overly greasy.
- Preheat the Oven: Ensure your oven is properly preheated before baking. This helps the dish cook evenly and ensures the pasta and filling are cooked to perfection.
- Use Quality Tomato Sauce: If using canned tomato sauce, choose a good-quality brand or consider making your own for a more authentic and flavourful result.
- Generously Fill the Shells: Don’t be afraid to stuff the pasta shells generously. A well-filled shell ensures every bite is packed with flavour.
- Layer Tomato Sauce Strategically: Spread a bit of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish before arranging the stuffed shells. This helps prevent sticking and adds flavour to the bottom layer.
- Cover While Baking: Covering the dish with foil during the initial baking period keeps the moisture in and allows the flavours to meld together.
- Uncover for Melting Cheese: Remove the foil in the final stages of baking to allow the cheese to melt and develop a golden, bubbly crust.
- Let Rest Before Serving: Allow the dish to rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps the flavours to settle and makes it easier to serve without falling apart.
- Garnish for Freshness: Finish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or basil just before serving for a burst of colour and flavour.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
While jumbo pasta shells are traditional for stuffed shells, you can experiment with other large pasta shapes like manicotti or large pasta tubes.
2. Can I make this dish ahead of time?
Yes, you can assemble the stuffed shells and refrigerate them for up to a day before baking. This can be a convenient option for planning ahead.
3. Can I freeze leftovers?
Yes, you can freeze leftover stuffed shells for up to 2-3 months. Ensure they are well-wrapped in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.
4. Can I substitute the ground beef with another type of meat?
Yes, you can use ground pork, turkey, or even a vegetarian meat substitute for a different flavour profile.
5. What can I serve with Stuffed Shells with Meat?
This dish pairs well with a side salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables. It’s versatile and can be complemented by various sides.
6. Can I use a different type of cheese for the filling?
While ricotta is traditional, you can experiment with other cheeses like cottage cheese, goat cheese, or a blend of cheeses for a unique twist.
7. How do I prevent the pasta shells from sticking together?
Ensure the shells are fully cooked and cooled before filling. If necessary, you can toss them in a bit of olive oil after draining to prevent sticking.
8. What if I don’t have fresh herbs?
If fresh herbs aren’t available, you can use dried herbs, but reduce the quantity by half, as dried herbs are more potent.
9. Can I make this recipe vegetarian?
Yes, you can omit the meat and use a combination of vegetables, like spinach, mushrooms, and zucchini, along with a meat substitute if desired.
10. Can I use homemade tomato sauce instead of canned?
Absolutely! Homemade tomato sauce can add a personalised touch and enhance the overall flavour of the dish.
- Serving Size: 1 portion (about 2 stuffed shells)
- Calories: 300-350 kcal
- Protein: 18-20g
- Carbohydrates: 30-35g
- Sugars: 6-8g
- Fat: 12-15g
- Saturated Fat: 6-8g
- Fibre: 3-4g
- Sodium: 600-700mg
Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on specific ingredients used, portion sizes, and cooking methods. It’s always a good idea to refer to specific product labels or conduct precise measurements for accurate nutritional information.
1. Garlic Bread and Salad: Serve with slices of warm garlic bread and a side salad dressed with a light vinaigrette for a balanced and satisfying meal.
2. Steamed Vegetables: Pair the stuffed shells with a medley of steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and green beans for a nutritious accompaniment.
3. Caprese Salad: Create a classic Caprese salad with slices of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves drizzled with balsamic glaze.
4. Roasted Asparagus: Roast asparagus spears with olive oil, salt, and pepper for an elegant side that complements the richness of the stuffed shells.
5. Caesar Salad: Serve alongside a Caesar salad with crisp Romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a creamy Caesar dressing.
6. Sautéed Spinach or Kale: Quickly sauté spinach or kale with garlic and a touch of olive oil for a vibrant and nutritious side dish.
7. Italian Antipasto Platter: Create a platter with Italian cured meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated vegetables for a Mediterranean-inspired spread.
8. Roasted Cherry Tomatoes: Roast cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, and herbs until they burst, creating a burst of flavour that complements the dish.
9. Focaccia Bread: Serve warm slices of focaccia bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt for a delightful accompaniment.
10. Grilled Zucchini Ribbons: Grill zucchini ribbons with a hint of lemon for a light and refreshing side that complements the heartiness of the dish.
These serving suggestions offer a variety of options to complement the flavours of Stuffed Shells with Meat. Choose one or more depending on your preferences and enjoy your meal!