Why I love this meat stuffed shells recipe
Stuffed shells are one of my all time favorite “special” meals. I say special because they really do take a bit of time to prepare, so you’re obviously not going to make them on a weekly basis. But, I still love them. If they’re on a menu at an Italian restaurant, I’m almost always going to order them. I shared my recipe for spinach and ricotta stuffed shells last summer, and believe me when I tell you they are amazing.
Since we stopped eating dairy (for the most part), I’ve been dying to come up with an equally satisfying dairy-free version, but I am not really into whole fake cheese scene. At least, not yet. So I thought I would give a meat filling a try, and to make things a little healthier, I went for Italian turkey sausage and spinach stuffed shells
And, it was a fantastic idea. They turned out perfect (after a few tweaks…), and I am almost as satisfied with them as my other recipe. Although, I really don’t think you can truly match the deliciousness that is ricotta cheese, these are definitely a close second. Plus, they’re really, really pretty.
Everyone loved them. Even my doubting family members.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it
- Measuring cups
- Large baking dish
How to make sausage stuffed shells
Cook the shells. Boil a large pot of water and and a heaping tablespoon or two of salt. Add the shells and cook according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
If you’re not stuffing the shells right away, drizzle them with oil to prevent them from sticking.
Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl , combine the filling ingredients and mix until combined. Try your best not to over mix, or you’ll end up with a tough filling. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just mixed.
Mix the sauce. In a separate mixing bowl , stir the sauce ingredients together until smooth. Set aside.
Stuff the shells. Spread a thin layer or sauce into the baking dish and then scoop filling into each cooked shell and line them up in the baking dish.
I like to use a large cookie scoop to portion my filling for the shells, but you can use a spoon if you want. Just do your best to fill them with the an equal amount so they cook evenly.
Bake the shells. Top the shells with any remaining sauce and cover the dish with foil. Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes.
Serve the shells. Make sure the filling reaches 165˚F before remove them from the oven. Then let the shells cool for about 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs such as basil or parsley, or your favorite dairy free cheese (or regular cheese if you’re not dairy free).
FAQS and tips for making meat stuffed shells
Stuffed shells are made for freezing. I like to freeze mine uncooked and un-sauced, then I assemble and bake as directed when I’m ready. But, you can freeze your leftovers too.
This recipe should last for 3 – 5 days in the fridge as long as it’s stored in an airtight container or tightly covered in plastic wrap. But, always use your best judgment before consuming leftovers.
What side dishes go with stuffed shells?
More meat stuffed recipes:
- Southwest Chicken Stuffed Peppers
- Baked Stuffed Pork Chops
- Puff Pastry Sausage Rolls
- Spinach artichoke chicken
More pork recipes you’ll love:Print
You don’t need ricotta to make the best stuffed shells recipe! These meat stuffed shells are filled with a savory stuffing made from beef and Italian sausage with a hint spinach and dairy free mozzarella. Everyone will love this super easy recipe!
For the shells:
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage*
- 1/2 pound ground beef (80-85% lean)
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs*
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 12-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of water
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Pinch of coarse salt
- 2 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Cook pasta shells in salted water according to package directions for al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, mix the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until evenly combined.
- In a separate large bowl, mix the sauce ingredients together.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cool water.
- Spread a thin layer of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.
- Stuff each shell with a few tablespoons of the filling and place into the baking dish. Continue until all shells are stuffed. Top with additional sauce.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake the shells for 40-45 minutes, or until the filling reaches 160˚F. Remove from oven and allow the shells cool for about 5 – 10 minutes before serving.
You will probably only use about 3/4 of the cooked shells, but making the whole package will ensure you have enough shells if some break in the cooking or filling process.
If you aren’t dairy free, feel free to substitute equal amounts of regular low-moisture mozzarella cheese for the vegan mozzarella shreds.
*Make sure you check the labels on your packages for hidden dairy before using. Breadcrumbs and sausage tend to be products that often use dairy in the ingredients.
Keywords: dairy free, sausage, pork, beef, pasta, stuffed shells
Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Melissa Belanger