Conquer busy weeknights with this classic comfort food recipe made with a major time-saving shortcut - frozen meatballs! Meatball Stuffed Shells include all of the flavors you love in the traditional recipe, except they're faster and easier to make!
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.
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 saves 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
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Mix - Mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, dried oregano, fresh parsley, salt, and pepper.
Spread ½ cup of the marinara sauce in an even layer on the bottom of your baking dish.
Stuff the shells with about 1 teaspoon of the ricotta cheese mixture and 1 meatball.
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 cheese! 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!
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 smaller in size. They need to fit easily into the jumbo shells along with the ricotta cheese mixture.
- This recipe is easy to double, which makes it easy to feed a crowd.
- 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.
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