Meat Stuffed Shells

This is a delicious recipe taken almost verbatim from Emeril Lagasse. The only changes I’ve made have been to add a little more sauce and cheese and to alter the cooking a bit so that it doesn’t dry out. This recipe freezes very well–just allow extra time for thawing and a little more baking.

  • Prep Time: 90 minutes
  • Baking Time: 25 minutes
  • Servings: 7 (3 shells each)


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (18 to 20 shells)
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound ground veal
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Essence (Creole Seasoning)

2 1/2 parts paprika
2 parts salt
2 part garlic powder
1 part black pepper
1 part onion powder
1 part cayenne pepper
1 part dried leaf oregano
1 part dried thyme

Basic Red Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
16 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, broken into pieces, and their juices
16 ounces tomato sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pasta shells, and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long-handled spoon to prevent the shells from sticking together. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until very soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the ground veal and cook, stirring, until cooked and browned. Add the squeezed spinach and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add the spinach mixture, the extra-virgin olive oil, Essence, remaining teaspoon of salt, the basil, oregano, and pepper, and stir to combine thoroughly. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the spinach-ricotta filling into each cooked pasta shell. Place the filled shells in the prepared dish.
  5. Pour the Basic Red Sauce over the filled shells and top with the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 15 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10, until bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Basic Red Sauce

  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, salt, basil, oregano, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and sugar. Stir well. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and fragrant, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally

Yield: 3 cups

Preparation/Cooking Notes

As with all noodles, allow the shells decent time to cool so that sauce can adhere well.

Serving Notes

Goes well with aa green green vegetable (e.g., green beans). Be sure to include bread (garlic or regular Italian) to sop up the delicious sauce!

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