How to Make Stuffed Pasta
Making your own stuffed pasta is easy with our 5-step guide!
Hand-Shaped Pasta is Easy
The dough is supple and lovely to work with, and the little bundles are a pleasure to form. So get out that pasta roller, or borrow one: This dish is fun and dazzling!
1. Roll the Dough
Roll sections of dough through a pasta machine at each setting until very thin.
2. Cut the Dough
Cut dough into 4 × 3--inch rectangles using a pizza wheel or fluted cutter.
3. Moisten the Dough
Moisten long sides of dough with water, and fold over filling to enclose it.
4. Twist the Dough
Twist dough edges in opposite directions as if sealing candy in a wrapper.
5. Arrange Pasta
Arrange pasta on a baking sheet dusted with semolina to prevent sticking.
No Fail Recipes: Lasagna Stuffed Shells
Watch Tash Feldman turn sad, soupy shells into the rich and cheesy pasta bake of our dreams.
Recipe developer Natasha "Tash" Feldman helps stuffed shell-lover Genise transform her limp, sloppy shells into an aromatic and perfectly baked Italian-inspired entree in just a few, easy steps.
The problem: Genise&aposs lasagna-stuffed shells are watery and lacking in pizazz.
The solution: Firm up the filling and infuse each bite with a deep, garlicky kick.
- Genise&aposs original bake was packed with wet ingredients, resulting in soggy and overcooked pasta. High-protein ricotta helps to firm up the cheesy center of each shell and to retain the beautifully nuanced flavor of the dish.
- Adding a bit of acid (lemon in this case) helps to brighten up really fatty offerings like stuffed shells.
Sear, Simmer, and Sauce
Searing your meat is the most essential step of creating a base for your sauce — make sure your sear is strong so that you impart loads of rich, savory taste. "One of the big mistakes people make is turning off the burner as soon as they see brown," says Feldman. "The more brown stuff on the bottom, the more free flavor."
Next, lightly coat your pan with oil and bring the burner to medium-high heat to sautພ the onions. "What I want you to see in the pan is that your onions have started to pick up the crispy, brown bits from the bottom," says Feldman. "Once you get there, you can add a heaping tablespoon of your tomato paste."
Tash&aposs next tip is to infuse your oil with garlic before incorporating it into the sauce. Let the sauce reduce until thick, making sure to avoid any burning on the bottom.
Season and Stuff
As the shells boil, combine ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, spinach, and fresh basil. You&aposll have a thick mixture. "Chop your basil leaves relatively finely so it gets nice and tucked in to the ricotta," says Tash. "Run your lemon over a grater or give it a quick little squeeze over the baking dish." The citrus splash will boost the flavor even more.
"Take your meat sauce and scoop it into the shell," says Feldman. Repeat the process with the ricotta mixture and then cover with a layer of Parmesan. Bake until the tops are crisp and bubbling.
Stuffed pasta shells recipe
Stuffed pasta shells: the ingredients
To prepare baked pasta shells, you will need: 11 oz pasta shells, 1 lb and 8 oz tomato sauce, 1 ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano, 2 ½ oz golden onions, 4 ½ oz ground pork, 1 lb cow's milk ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 4 ½ oz ground beef, 9 oz mozzarella cheese, 2 oz red wine, salt and pepper to taste, extra virgin olive oil to taste and 1 clove of garlic.
Stuffed pasta shells: the procedure
Let's start with the sauce. Chop the onion finely, then fry it in a pan with a drizzle of oil. Add the tomato sauce and salt to taste. Cook the sauce, covered, over low heat for about 40 minutes. If the sauce dries out too much, add some water. In the meantime, cut the mozzarella into 7 thin slices cut the remaining cheese into cubes. Now it's time to cook the meat: brown the clove of garlic in a frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced meat and brown – let the bottom cook first, but don’t let the meat stick to the pan!
In the meantime, put the water for the pasta over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the meat sauce has reduced, add red wine and season with salt. Let the liquid condense further and turn off the heat. Boil the shells and drain them at half the cooking time required per the instructions on the package. Once drained, transfer shells to a pan and let them finish cooking with a little oil. Transfer to a tray and let cool.
Now it's time for the filling: add ricotta cheese, diced mozzarella, meat, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, one beaten egg, salt and pepper to a bowl. Mix until well-combined to make the filling for the pasta shells. In an ovenproof dish, add a layer of tomato sauce first followed by the pasta shells that you will stuff with the filling mixture. Cover the stuffed pasta shells with more tomato sauce and garnish with slices of mozzarella, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes at 450°F (220°C). Serve hot.
The recipe for stuffed pasta shells comes from the Sicilian culinary tradition: in the original recipe, the meat sauce is made with veal mixed with tomato sauce and peas. Above, béchamel sauce is used as an alternative to tomato sauce.
Why pasta shells? All the better to fill with delicious ingredients, of course! We suggest conchiglioni pasta shells: they’re even bigger (to fit more filling!) and beautiful to look at. Usually, baked pasta shells is a dish that is prepared without skimping on the portions. If you do end up any leftovers, though, you can keep them in the fridge for a couple of days at most.
- 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells
- 12 dried jumbo shell macaroni
- 1 medium red sweet pepper, chopped
- ½ cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups fat-free milk
- 8 ounces cooked crabmeat, coarsely chopped, or good-quality canned lump crabmeat, drained
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop shrimp and set aside. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions drain. Rinse with cold water drain again.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large nonstick skillet cook sweet pepper and onion in hot oil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Transfer shrimp mixture to a bowl.
For sauce, add garlic to the same skillet. Cook and stir for 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat. Carefully add wine return skillet to heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until most of the wine is evaporated, stirring to scrape up browned bits from bottom of skillet. In a small bowl whisk together 3/4 cup broth and flour. Add all at once to the skillet along with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
Stir 2/3 cup of the sauce and the crab into the shrimp mixture. Spoon shrimp mixture evenly into the cooked shells and arrange shells in a 2-quart square baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the shells.
Cover and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and chives just before serving. Serve in shallow bowls.
Variations For This Stuffed Shell Recipe
If spinach isn&rsquot your thing, you can definitely leave it out of this recipe. A good substitution would be chopped broccoli, but you can just leave it our altogether and just use the beef and cheese.
We like to try and sneak in some more vegetables when we can but you certainly don&rsquot have to.
And if beef isn&rsquot your thing you can swap the beef out for ground pork or turkey, too. OR if you&rsquore looking to keep it vegetarian, leave out the beef and throw in some more chopped broccoli or spinach! You&rsquove got a few options here&hellip
Another great swap out for this pasta recipe is a jar of Alfredo sauce instead of marinara sauce. Or your favorite homemade sauce recipe &ndash but a cheesy, creamy sauce with these stuffed shells &ndash that would be crazy good.
Now I think we can all agree that it&rsquos all about the melted mozzarella cheese on top. Once these shells are baked and they get slightly crispy on the edges&hellipit&rsquos pasta perfection.
Now on that note, if you are one of those people who prefer their pasta soft and not crispy on the edges, just leave the aluminum foil on the whole time, the cheese will still melt. Or you can take it off during the last few minutes of baking just to let the cheese get bubbly.
Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ground Beef
These are super tasty, creamy, and cheesy stuffed pasta shells with ground beef for a weeknight dinner. My family likes pasta dishes very much, so they were very happy to try these Stuffed Pasta Shells with ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan. It tastes so good with crusty bread, hot sauce, and Italian salad.
How to make Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ground Beef
Follow the recipe below, and make sure to read through the frequently asked questions and pro tips to bake the Best Stuffed Pasta Shells.
- Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add ½ pound jumbo pasta shells to the boiling water. Cook until al dente according to package directions. Then, drain the jumbo pasta shells and rinse under cold water. Set aside
- Step 2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add one chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Then, add 3 minced garlic cloves. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add 1 pound ground beef, break it up into chunks. Cook until browned.
- Step 4. Add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce to the beef mixture. Stir until combined. Then, remove the skillet from the heat.
- Step 5. In a bowl, mix together 2 cups ricotta, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, and one beat egg.
- Step 7. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Then, add the remaining 1 cup of spaghetti sauce. Spread evenly.
- Step 8. Fill each jumbo pasta shell with a cheesy beefy mixture. Place them on the prepared baking pan. Top with extra parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!
What to serve with stuffed pasta shells?
I like to serve these stuffed pasta shells with crusty bread, Italian salad, hot sauce, guacamole, or salsa.
Baking Tips For Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ground Beef
- You can use cottage cheese instead of ricotta.
- I recommend using extra parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese for topping.
- Add a little olive oil to the boiling water while cooking the jumbo pasta shells to prevent them from sticking together.
- You can use marinara sauce or homemade tomato sauce instead of spaghetti sauce.
Can you make stuffed pasta shells ahead of time?
Yes, you can make these stuffed pasta shells ahead of time. You can do all the instruction steps, but you don&rsquot need to top the pasta shells with cheese and you don&rsquot need to bake it.
Just wrap the baking pan with stuffed pasta shells with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When you will be ready to bake it, just remove the stuffed pasta shells with ground beef from the refrigerator, top with cheese, and bake.
How to freeze stuffed pasta shells?
These stuffed pasta shells with ground beef freezing well. You can freeze them before baking or you can freeze the leftover pasta shells.
First, let them cool completely. Then, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the freezer. You can store stuffed pasta shells with ground beef for up to three months in the freezer.
Filled pasta recipes
While most pasta dishes have their sauces and toppings brazenly displayed Italy's numerous varieties of filled pasta are a more modest bunch, keeping the majority of their flavour tucked away inside. From familiar faces such as ravioli and tortellini to agnolotti and other more unusual varieties, this collection of filled pasta recipes will provide some fantastic menu inspiration – as well as offer assistance on preparing fresh pasta.
Gaetano Trovato's Ravioli with ricotta, spinach, tomato and basil is a fantastic easy pasta recipe which is packed with fresh flavours, or try his Lobster ravioli recipe – served with foie gras and a vivid saffron sauce – for an impressive dinner party starter. Aurora Mazzucchelli's exquisite Parmesan tortelli has the fragrant additions of lavender, nutmeg and almond, and similarly Lorenzo Cogo's impressive pasta starter recipe combines ravioli with flowers, almond milk and an unusual hit of tequila.
How to Make Classic Italian-American Stuffed Pasta Shells
What's the difference between a recipe for classic Italian-American manicotti and one for stuffed shells? In all honesty, not much beyond the pasta shapes. Both have a seasoned ricotta-cheese filling, which often has spinach mixed in, and both are baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
What does that mean in terms of coming up with a really great recipe for stuffed shells? Well, basically, that I could crib heavily from Kenji's existing manicotti recipe. As they say, there's no need to reinvent the wheel, even if the wheel in question is more of a tube filled with cheese.
We have a couple goals here: The first is building flavor, and the second is controlling moisture, which is always a risk with fresh cheese like ricotta and a water-laden vegetable like spinach. If, at the same time, we can eliminate needlessly complicated steps or superfluous ingredients, that's a bonus.
Almost all of those goals concern the filling itself, so let's start there.
One of the most important elements of this recipe is good-quality ricotta. Unfortunately, most of the ricotta sold in supermarkets is not good. It tends to have an overly grainy texture and lacks the fresh flavor of higher quality stuff. If you've got a local Italian grocer who makes or sells fresh ricotta, start there. If not, look for Calabro, our favorite nationally-available brand. If neither is an option, check the ingredients labels. You want a ricotta that has nothing more than milk, salt, and either an acid or bacterial starter. Avoid anything with a gum listed—these gums bind water but release it as you heat the ricotta up.
Straight out of its container, even good-quality ricotta can be too wet, which will result in a watery filling later. To fix this, we start by spreading the ricotta on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel on a rimmed baking sheet, then top with more towels and let it stand for about five minutes. Then we transfer the ricotta to a mixing bowl.
Next, we prep the greens. Traditionally, that would be spinach, but Kenji made a very good point when he was working on his manicotti recipe: Blanched spinach doesn't have much flavor. His solution was to use a mix of spinach and a more flavorful green like arugula, so that's what we'll be doing here, too. Arugula can be pretty peppery, but once boiled it loses a lot of its bite, so don't worry about that being a problem.
We also need to dry the boiled greens, and the fastest way to do that is to strain them directly into the strainer of a salad spinner and then spin them in it. While that removes a lot of liquid, it's not quite enough, so after that we also spread the arugula out on clean towels, roll it all up and squeeze tightly to extract as much liquid as possible. (Give yourself a forearm workout here you won't regret it later when you cut into those shells and they're not watery.) Then, chop up the greens and add them to the ricotta.
Beyond that, we mix a few more ingredients into the filling for more flavor, like minced garlic, freshly grated nutmeg, some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded mozzarella, salt, and pepper. Some recipes add mascarpone and/or an egg to the mix, but I tested both and my blind tasters couldn't tell any of the samples apart, so I concluded they weren't essential. Why add ingredients if they don't make a noticeable difference?
For the pasta, we're using jumbo shells. They're almost exclusively used for baked pasta dishes, so many of them have specific cooking instructions for baked applications. If the brand you bought doesn't have those instructions, just cut the box's recommended cooking time by three minutes—the pasta will continue to cook as it bakes.
Stuffing shells is much easier than piping cheese into manicotti. You should easily be able to fill them with a regular spoon. When filled, arrange them in a baking dish in which you've spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom. You can use whatever good tomato sauce you'd like, whether it's Kenji's slow-cooked sauce, my quick sauce, or a high quality brand like Rao's.
I like to arrange the shells with the stuffing side up. Not only does this keep them neater as they bake, it also exposes more bare pasta edges for crisping, and what's baked pasta without crisp edges? When the shells are packed in, just spoon more tomato sauce over them and top it all off with additional shredded mozzarella and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Home (cheese) stretch here: Bake the assembled pasta in a preheated 375°F (200°C) oven until it's browned and bubbling on top, then serve straight away.
Do you think your guests are gonna notice that you've essentially served them manicotti in a different form? We shell see.
Cappelletti in brodo (meat stuffed pasta in broth)
- 30 gms butter, unsalted
- 225 gms lean mixture of meat: pork loin, veal loin, and chicken breast, finely chopped by hand
- 1 egg
- 2 pinches nutmeg, finely grated
- 50 gms prosciutto, finely chopped
- 50 gms mortadella or beef bone marrow or a mixture of the two, finely chopped
- 100 gms Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for serving
- In a small sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the meat mixture and turn the heat to low.
- Cook until the meat is cooked through but do not let it dry out (about 3 minutes each side). Remove it from the pan and let it cool. Reserve the cooking liquid in a small bowl.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cooled meat, egg, nutmeg, prosciutto, mortadella, bone marrow, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Cover the mixture with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Flour a baking sheet.
- Roll your pasta to the last (thinnest) setting on your pasta machine. Cut the pasta sheets in half if they are getting too long. Flour your work surface lightly and keep the pasta you are not currently working with on the floured surface. Cover the pasta with a damp towel to keep it moist. Have another damp tea towel ready.
- For this part it is best to enlist the help and companionship of friends and family. This will transform the process from work to fun. Take one sheet of pasta and using a paring knife or pasta cutter cut it into 3-5 cm squares.
- Take a ¼ teaspoon of filling and place in the centre of a square.
- Fold the pasta over so that the corners meet and form a triangle.
- Pinch the edges shut pressing out any air inside. Sit the filled pasta up with the center corner up and bring the two bottom corners together.
- Fold the top corner back slightly.
- If your pasta is not closing well as it is too dry, dip your finger into the reserved meat cooking liquid and moisten the edges to close. Place finished cappelletti on the floured baking sheet and cover with the damp tea towel.
- Bring the meat broth to a simmer. In a separate sauce pan, bring 4 litres of water to a boil over medium heat with 40 grams of salt. Add 30 cappelletti to the water and turn the heat to low, do not let the water boil. You can add some cold water to the pan to prevent this.
- You will need to cook the cappelletti in batches. When the cappelletti float (1 minute after the water comes close to boiling), remove with a slotted spoon to the serving bowls. Ladle the meat broth into the bowls. Sprinkle Parmigiano-reggiano cheese over top and serve.
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Creamy Stuffed Pasta Shells
Before we get to the recipe for Creamy Stuffed Pasta Shells, I have a problem. I love cream cheese, and it seems that many people do not. I’ll never understand this. Not liking cream cheese is like not liking chocolate. Or ice cream. I do not trust people with these hangups.
When I worked at Pillsbury I developed recipes, which means I first sat in their extensive cookbook library and browsed to find inspiration. Then I would work in the test kitchens, creating recipes to present to home ecs who were responsible for cookbooks and recipes on package labels.
I developed this fabulous recipe that was made of pork chops stuffed with a creamy filling that included spinach and lots of garlic and the dreaded cream cheese. I’ll never forget the words of one home ec who said, “this filling is just too cream cheesy.”
That phrase has become legendary at my house. We use it to express distaste for something, and to mock those with food hangups. But for me, nothing is ever “too cream cheesy.”
If you like cream cheese too, with its velvety texture and rich tangy flavor, this recipe for Creamy Stuffed Pasta Shells is the pasta recipe for you. A rich filling made of ricotta, Parmesan, lots of onions and garlic, mozzarella, Parm, and … cream cheese … is stuffed inside jumbo pasta shells, and the whole thing is baked in a tangy red sauce. It’s so good and so simple. Ricotta tastes too thin to me, and it needs the heft and body of cream cheese.
And if anyone ever says to you, “this is too cream cheesy,” cut them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of negativity.
Serve this wonderful recipe with Cheesy Toasted Bread Sticks for even more carbs (why not?) and a green salad. For dessert, Black Forest Bars would be delicious.