Meatball stuffed shells are a classic stuffed shell recipe with a twist! Jumbo pasta shells are filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, topped with marinara sauce and stuffed with Italian style meatballs. This easy stuffed shells recipe is perfect for busy weeknights!
Stuffed shells are a classic Italian dish. While I love the regular version of stuffed shells, adding meatballs gives the classic recipe a fun and delicious twist!
To save time, I use frozen meatballs! You can use store-bought frozen meatballs or homemade meatballs straight from your freezer. This time-saving shortcut makes this an easy dinner recipe for any night of the week.
If you're looking for more meatball recipes, you need to try my Slow Cooker Meatballs and my Pesto Turkey Meatballs!
To round this meal out, serve it with Garlic Bread, Sautéed Kale and a beautiful Butternut Squash and Beet Salad!
Why you'll love this recipe
- Stuffed Shells with Meatballs can be a main dish or an easy appetizer! Serve individual meatball stuffed shells on a toothpick at your next party. Your guests will love it!
- This stuffed shells recipe requires minimal ingredients.
- I help you save time when making this recipe by making them with store-bought, fully cooked, frozen meatballs.
- Both kids and adults love this recipe! Kids love it because it's fun to stuff your meatballs inside jumbo pasta shells. Adults love it because it makes stuffed shells 10x more filling and satisfying.
- Frozen meatballs: I used Bove's Italian Style All Beef Meatballs made with ground beef. The size of the meatballs is perfect for this recipe, and they taste delicious. Using a frozen meatball doesn't sacrifice flavor and save's so much time!
- Jumbo stuffing shells: Pick your favorite brand of jumbo shells. Any brand will work for this recipe.
- Marinara sauce: As you can see in the photo above, I used Bove's pasta sauce for this recipe as well! Any type of marinara sauce, red sauce, or spaghetti sauce will work for this recipe.
- Ricotta cheese: What would a stuffed shell recipe be without ricotta cheese? Of course, this recipe for stuffed shells contains ricotta cheese!
- Mozzarella cheese: Mozzarella cheese goes inside the pasta shell AND on top.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated or shredded parmesan cheese is best.
- Seasonings: Fresh parsley, garlic powder, dried oregano, kosher salt, and ground black pepper are needed.
- Medium-sized baking dish - A small casserole dish or lasagna dish will work.
- Medium mixing bowl
- Cutting board and knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
How to make Meatball Stuffed Shells
Thaw - Thaw your frozen meatballs.
Boil - Boil a large pot of water on the stove and cook your jumbo pasta shells according to package instructions.
Mix - Mix the ricotta mixture for stuffing the shells in a medium bowl. Mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, dried oregano, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.
Stuff the shells - Spread a layer of marinara sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Take a cooked pasta shell and stuff it with about 1 teaspoon of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1 meatball.
Repeat the stuffing process until you have used all of your meatballs. Carefully place each stuffed shell in rows in your baking dish.
Add more sauce - Add another layer of red sauce on top of the meatball stuffed shells.
Add more cheese - Add the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese and remaining parmesan cheese on top of the meatball stuffed pasta shells.
Bake - Cover the pan with foil. Bake the shells in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the top of the shells are covered in melty cheeese!
Serve and enjoy!
Substitutions and variations
Meatballs: I used meatballs made with ground beef. You can also use frozen turkey meatballs, ground chicken meatballs, pork meatballs, or an Italian sausage style meatball.
Ricotta cheese: A common substitute for ricotta cheese is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese has a very similar flavor and texture to ricotta cheese. It's often preferred over ricotta cheese because it's high in protein.
Seasonings: Italian seasoning blend, dried basil, dried parsley, fresh garlic, or fresh herbs can all be included in this recipe for added flavor.
Do you want to make this recipe gluten free? Simply swap out a gluten-based shell for a gluten free pasta shell. The gluten free pasta brand called Tinkyada, makes a gluten free brown rice jumbo pasta shell.
Pasta recipes you might also like
Try out some of my other delicious and popular Italian style recipes!
Vegetables: Try out some of my delicious vegetable side dishes! I have really yummy recipes for Glazed Carrots, Roasted Green Beans and Carrots and Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Asparagus.
Breads: In addition to my Garlic Bread recipe, you could also serve this with Dutch Oven Bread or Drop Biscuits!
Side dishes like Caesar salad, Greek salad, antipasto salad and garlic knots also pair well with Meatball Stuffed Shells!
Are feeling creative? Swap out the marinara sauce for a butternut squash sauce of an alfredo sauce.
How to store and reheat
How to store: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How to reheat: Reheat leftover stuffed shells in the microwave for about a minute at a time, until warmed through.
- You can easily make this recipe ahead of time. Assemble the entire dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake.
- Make sure to choose frozen meatballs that are a smaller-sized mini meatball. They need to easily fit into the jumbo shells along with the ricotta cheese mixture.
- This recipe is really easy to double which makes it easy to feed a crowd with.
- Add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like your Italian dishes to be a little spicey!
- It's always best to shred your cheeses yourself. They will melt better and taste better too.
- Spray the underside of the aluminum foil with cooking spray to prevent the foil from sticking to the melty mozzarella cheese.
Frequently asked questions
One possible reason for watery shells is that the shells were overcooked. Another possible reason is that the cheese stuffing contains too much moisture.
It will take about 30-45 minutes to bake meatballs at 350°F, depending on the size of the meatballs.
Hard pasta shells would indicate that they were undercooked when you were boiling them. Hard pasta shells could also mean that they were overcooked in the oven.
Meatball Stuffed Shells
Meatball stuffed shells is a classic stuffed shell recipe with a twist! Jumbo pasta shells are filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, topped with marinara sauce and stuffed with Italian style meatballs.
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- 30 small frozen meatballs - thawed
- 1 package jumbo pasta stuffing shells
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese - divided
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese - divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 ½ cups marinara sauce - divided
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Make the ricotta cheese mixture. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, ½ cup parmesan cheese, garlic powder, dried oregano, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.
- Using a spoon, spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce in an even layer on the bottom of your baking dish.
- Stuff the pasta shells. Stuff each shell with about 1 teaspoon of the ricotta mixture and 1 thawed meatball. Place each stuffed shell in the baking dish in even rows. You will end up with 30 individual stuffed shells.
- After all the pasta shells are stuffed, top the shells with the remaining 1 cup marinara sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese on top of the marinara sauce.
- Cover the dish of meatball stuffed shells with foil. Bake in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melty.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- If you are worried about your foil sticking to the cheese on top of the stuffed shells, lightly spray the underside of the foil with cooking spray. This should prevent the foil from sticking.
- Stuffed shells make for excellent leftovers! Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- The nutrition information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: dinner
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: Italian American
Keywords: meatball stuffed shells
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So delicious. I have 2 toddlers and they thought this was so neat with the meatball in it and ate it all up! I actually replaced the ricotta with a 1/2 brick of softened cream cheese and it was perfect. Definitely going to try with ricotta next time though!
I'm so glad you liked it! I never would have thought of that substitution but it sounds delicious!
Sunday dinner was homemade spaghetti and meatballs in the crockpot. Instead of just "leftovers" used them for this dish. Great idea, so easy. Everyone loved the meatball stuffed shells.
I'm so glad everyone loved them! It's definitely a great way to repurpose leftover meatballs.