Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat

Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat are a perfect combination of rich marinara sauce, savory beef, and gooey melted cheese. This dish never fails to impress! Welcome to your new favorite recipe!

Today, we’re diving into the world of homemade Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat. This dish is a hit for any dinner table because Jumbo shells are perfect for holding hearty fillings, making every bite a burst of flavor.

You can find variations ranging from classic meat fillings to vegetarian and cheese-packed versions. This recipe has become a staple in many kitchens. Let’s get started with this easy-to-follow recipe with you!

Ingredients Explained

Let’s break down what you’ll need for this amazing Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat recipe. Each ingredient plays a crucial role in creating a flavorful and hearty dish.

  • 18 uncooked jumbo pasta shells: These large shells will be the vessel for our delicious stuffing.
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef: Provides a rich and meaty base for the filling.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped: Adds a sweet yet savory flavor to the beef.
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed: Infuses the filling with aromatic notes.
  • 16 ounces marinara sauce: Keeps everything moist and adds zesty tomato goodness.
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese: Adds creaminess and helps bind the filling together.
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper: Adds a hint of spice to balance the flavors.
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided: Offers a melty, cheesy goodness, both inside and on top of the shells.
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese: Adds a nutty and sharp flavor to complement the cheddar.
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil: Freshens up the dish with a burst of herbal notes.

Having all these ingredients handy will also make your cooking process smooth and enjoyable. Make sure everything is prepped and ready to go before you start!

a serving of jumbo shells with ground meat on a white plate.

Equipment Needed

To make this delicious homemade Jumbo Shells with Ground Beef recipe, you’ll need the following kitchen tools:

  • Large Pot: For boiling the jumbo pasta shells until al dente.
  • Colander: Drain and rinse the cooked pasta shells.
  • Large Skillet: For cooking the ground beef, onion, and garlic.
  • Wooden Spoon or Spatula: For stirring the beef mixture in the skillet.
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons: To accurately measure out your ingredients.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: For chopping the onion and pressing the garlic.
  • Mixing Bowl: Combine the cheese-filling ingredients.
  • Tablespoon: For spooning the filling into the pasta shells.
  • Casserole Dish (13×9 recommended): To bake the stuffed shells in.
  • Aluminum Foil: Cover the casserole dish while baking.
  • Oven Mitts: For safely removing the hot casserole dish from the oven.
  • Serving Spoon: For dishing out the final delicious product.

Having all these tools ready will make your cooking experience efficient and enjoyable.

Preparation Steps

Preparing the Ingredients

  1. Chop and press: Chop the medium onion finely and press the garlic cloves. Set them aside for later use.
  2. Measure and mix: Measure out the shredded cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. To make it easier, divide the cheddar cheese into two portions – one for the filling and one for the topping.
  3. Cook the ground beef: Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and chopped onion. Cook until the beef is no longer pink. Add the pressed garlic and cook for another minute.

Cooking the Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat

Cooking the jumbo pasta shells perfectly is crucial for this recipe. Follow these steps:

  1. Boil water: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water for flavor.
  2. Cook shells: Add the uncooked jumbo pasta shells to the boiling water. Cook until al dente, which usually takes about 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  3. Drain and rinse: Once cooked, drain the pasta shells in a colander and rinse them with cold water. This will stop the cooking process and make them easier to handle.
a casserole dish of uncooked jumbo shells with ground meat.

Prepping Fillings

Creating a delicious filling is what makes this dish special. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Combine beef and marinara: In the skillet with the cooked beef and onions, stir in the marinara sauce and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until everything is well blended.
  2. Mix cheese filling: In a mixing bowl, combine the cottage cheese, 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and fresh basil. Mix well to ensure that all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Preparing the Baking Dish

Now it’s time to prepare the baking dish where all the magic will happen:

  1. Preheat oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) to ensure it’s ready when you are.
  2. Grease the casserole dish: Lightly grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with a bit of oil or cooking spray. This will prevent the shells from sticking.
  3. Fill the shells: Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the beef mixture into each of the cooked pasta shells. Place each filled shell into the greased casserole dish in a single layer.
  4. Bake covered: Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven until heated through, about 12-15 minutes.
  5. Add cheese and finish baking: Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining shredded cheddar cheese over the shells, and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Congratulations! You’ve now prepped and cooked your delicious Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat. Enjoy this delightful, hearty meal with family and friends.

Assembling your Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat

Here’s how to bring it all together:

  1. Layer the base: Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce at the bottom of the greased casserole dish. This will add extra moisture and prevent the shells from sticking to the dish while baking.
  2. Fill shells: Using a tablespoon, carefully spoon the cheese mixture into each cooked pasta shell. Aim for about two tablespoons of filling per shell for a hearty bite.
  3. Add beef mixture: Place a generous spoonful of the beef and marinara mixture inside each stuffed shell, ensuring an even distribution of the meat and sauce.
  4. Arrange in dish: Arrange the filled shells systematically in a single layer in the prepped casserole dish. There’s no need to jam them tightly, just nestle them comfortably side by side.
  5. Top with sauce: Once all the shells are filled and arranged, pour any remaining marinara sauce evenly over the top of the shells. This adds an extra layer of saucy goodness to the dish.
  6. Sprinkle cheese: Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese evenly over the top to create that irresistible cheesy crust.
  7. Garnish: Finally, sprinkle the freshly chopped basil over the top for a fresh and vibrant finishing touch before baking.

Now you’re ready to bake your assembled dish as directed. Enjoy the mouth-watering aroma as it fills your kitchen, and look forward to indulging in this cheesy, flavorful meal.

a casserole dish of jumbo shells with ground beef


Now that your jumbo shells with ground meat are assembled and ready to go, it’s time to bake them to perfection. Follow these steps to ensure your dish turns out deliciously warm and cheesy:

  1. Preheat the oven: Make sure your oven is preheated to 350°F (175°C). This temperature is ideal for baking the shells while melting the cheese to gooey perfection.
  2. Cover and bake: Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil. This helps to retain moisture and evenly cook the stuffed shells. Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shells are heated through and the filling is hot.
  3. Uncover and add cheese: Carefully remove the foil then sprinkle any remaining shredded cheddar cheese over the top of the shells. This will create a mouth-watering cheesy crust.
  4. Finish baking: Return the uncovered casserole dish to the oven and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. This allows the cheese to melt and become bubbly and golden.
  5. Cool slightly: Once done baking, remove the casserole dish from the oven using oven mitts. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving so that it sets slightly, making it easier to serve.

Your delicious jumbo shells with ground meat are now ready to enjoy! Serve them hot, topped with extra fresh basil if desired, and pair them with a side salad or breadsticks for a complete meal.

Serving Suggestions

To elevate your stuffed jumbo shells meal, consider these delightful serving suggestions:

  • Side Salad: Serve the stuffed shells alongside a fresh, crisp side salad. A simple Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, and croutons adds a refreshing counterbalance to the rich, cheesy pasta.
  • Garlic Bread: Complement your dish with warm garlic bread. The crunchy, buttery texture of garlic bread provides a perfect accompaniment to the soft, cheesy stuffed shells.
  • Steamed Vegetables: Add nutritional value and color to your plate with a side of steamed vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, or green beans. Lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, these veggies bring a wholesome element to the meal.
  • Wine Pairing: A glass of red wine, such as a robust Cabernet Sauvignon or a smooth Merlot, pairs beautifully with the hearty flavors of the stuffed shells. For a non-alcoholic option, sparkling water with a splash of lemon is refreshing and palate-cleansing.
  • Dessert: Finish your meal on a sweet note with a light dessert like a fruit sorbet or a tiramisu. These desserts offer a perfect balance of flavors and textures to complete your dining experience.

These serving suggestions will help you create a well-rounded and satisfying meal that’s sure to impress family and friends. Enjoy every flavorful bite!


  • Vegetarian Stuffed Shells: For a vegetarian twist, substitute the beef with a blend of sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and ricotta cheese. This version offers a deliciously creamy and hearty filling without the meat.
  • Seafood Stuffed Shells: Enhance your dish with a seafood variation by filling the shells with a mixture of crabmeat, shrimp, and ricotta cheese. Add a hint of lemon zest and dill for a fresh, coastal flavor.
  • Spicy Stuffed Shells: If you like a bit of heat, add some chopped jalapeños or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to the beef mixture. This will give your stuffed shells an exciting kick.
  • Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells: Choose a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses for an extra cheesy and indulgent filling. You can even add a bit of shredded gouda or fontina for a unique twist.
  • Pesto Stuffed Shells: For a different flavor profile, mix some basil pesto into the cheese filling. This adds a rich, herby taste that pairs wonderfully with the marinara sauce.


Crafting your own version of this Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat recipe just got easy with this tried-and-true recipe. It will surely excite your taste buds and warms your soul.

There are so many variations to Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat. So, don’t be afraid to explore this comfort food.

Whether you’re cooking for a family dinner or entertaining guests, combining a hearty filling, rich marinara sauce, and a gooey, cheesy topping will always be a crowd-pleaser!

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a rating or review. I would love to hear what you think!

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

a serving of jumbo shells with ground meat on a white plate.

Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat

Jumbo Shells with Ground Meat are a perfect combination of rich marinara sauce, savory beef, and gooey melted cheese. This dish never fails to impress!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 1 9×13 casserole dish


  • 18 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 11/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed
  • 16 ounces marinara sauce
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta to al dente. Drain. Rinse in cold water.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink. Stir in marinara sauce, and pepper until blended. Stir in 3/4 cup shredded cheese.
  • Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling into each shell. Place in a greased casserole dish.
  • Bake, covered, until heated through, 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese; bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
  • Serve with optional toppings as desired.


Nutrition Estimates:
2 stuffed shells: 405 calories, 22g fat (10g saturated fat), 90mg cholesterol, 730mg sodium, 26g carbohydrate (8g sugars, 2g fiber), 25g protein.
Keyword casserole, jumbo shells with ground meat

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