Italian Stuffed Shells

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on October 29, 2009


I originally intended on making these Mexican Stuffed Shells from Tricia’s March Menu.  Just not feeling that “unstuffed” or “Mexican” vibe this afternoon.

Ended up making Italian Stuffed Shells.  And a whole lotta ‘em.


And a dairy-free version, too.


Recipe below is the doubled version.  Will make at least 2 9×13 pans.  And costs just over $10! Got another meal stashed into the freezer!

And I need to include this.  I only ate 4 of these.  Because that’s all that my teeny-tiny stomach would allow.  I totally would have had 8. Or 10. Maybe even 12!  They were THAT good.

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Italian Stuffed Shells

Yield – 10 servings

Preparation Time – 25 minutes

Cooking Time – 20-30 minutes


  • 2 boxes of jumbo pasta shells ($4) I used about 2/3 of the shells, so you could get by just cooking 1 1/2 boxes.
  • 2 26 oz. cans spaghetti sauce ($2) Currently on sale for $1/can.
  • 1 box frozen spinach ($.50) These guys are regularly on sale for $1 and use $1/2 coupon.
  • 1.5 lb. ground beef ($2.09) On sale recently for $1.39/lb!
  • 1 medium onion ($.30)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder ($.10)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs ($.20)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese ($1.25) Omit if dairy free
  • Serve with fresh veggies like 2 broccoli heads On sale for $.99 a bunch this week!


1. In large pot, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.


2. Spread 1/2 – 1 cup spaghetti sauce into base of each baking dish.

3. Cook frozen spinach as directed on package. Drain excess liquid after cooking.

4. In large skillet, brown the ground beef with chopped onion. Drain, rinse and return to skillet. Add the rest of the spaghetti sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach.


Here is where I divided the meat into 2 parts. One part dairy-free. The other part with cheese.


5. To each meat, stir in 1 egg.


6. To meat sauce with dairy, stir in 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

7. Spoon meat into pasta shells and place into baking dishes. (If making dairy free and ones with dairy, use separate baking dishes!)


8. Sprinkle cheese over the ones that contain cheese in the meat sauce.


9. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

10. Prepare veggie as side dish. Tonight for us, it was steamed broccoli! Steam broccoli in stovetop steamer, or in microwaveable dish with water and covered in plastic wrap for 4-5 minutes.

11. Serve Italian Stuffed Shells with Steamed Broccoli. Freeze the rest for later!

Cost $10.44 plus veggies

**This easily made 2 dinners plus 2 lunch leftovers for us!

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle L. October 29, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Looks good! I bought the shells today ($1.50 a box at Wal-Mart) to do the Mexican Stuffed Shell recipe this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I just wish the shells came in whole wheat variety. Anyway, thanks for suggesting the recipe and keep up the good work….love this site!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 6:46 am

@Michelle L.,

I hear ya Michelle, my grocer didn’t have whole wheat shells either!


Jennifer October 29, 2009 at 7:50 pm

These look divine!!


Kara October 29, 2009 at 8:30 pm


I’ve never had stuffed shells with an egg added to it. What does that do?
You really inspired me this month to set a weekly goal for my grocery costs and I have to say that I made it every week—$80 or less was spent on our groceries each week and we ate great!!

Kara Mayfield


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 6:45 am


Just makes it “fluffier”…it is certainly not needed!

And best wishes on your new grocery budget! I know you can do it!!!


Ricarda October 30, 2009 at 6:46 am

This looks good! I’m definitely going to give it a try tonight!! I do have a question about freezing the leftovers. Do I freeze them after fully cooking them? What’s the best kind of containers to freeze them (I saw these disposable foil pans in your picture so I was wondering if you used these to go in the oven then allowed it to cool off then in the freezer??) help!!!! :)


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 11:19 am


I froze them cooked. In the metal pans I used…wrapped in foil and then into gallon size freezer baggies. I will thaw in fridge overnight before reheating.


Ricarda October 31, 2009 at 4:44 am

@Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom, Made these last night.. came out great! Thanks again!! :)


Alta October 30, 2009 at 7:02 am

Yum! Now, to find gluten-free shells….or to make some (might not be so easy once I do that!)


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 11:19 am


Could work with Rice Lasagna noodles…rolled up!


Alta October 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

@Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom, Oooh! Good call! I have some in my pantry.


joanna October 30, 2009 at 7:17 am

Do you think this would work with rolled-up lasagna noodles? I like using what I have on hand :)


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 11:20 am


Absolutely! A perfect alternative!


sherri October 30, 2009 at 7:58 am

I love stuffed shells. Great recipe.


Sally October 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Gluten-free pasta: This sounds amazing! I’ve actually seen some Tinkyada brand big rice shells, but they’re definitely not budget! I wonder if rice pasta freezes okay? Anyone know?


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 30, 2009 at 4:21 pm


Not sure how rice pasta freezes. Have not experimented with that!


Amanda November 1, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I made these today and yummmmmyy! Thanks so much. I live alone, so even making a single batch, I froze half of them and had dinner tonight and probably two more lunches. Thanks!


Bonnie November 7, 2009 at 12:01 pm

This was by far the most delicious I’ve ever cooked! it had such a yummy flavor and consistency. I also added a tablespoon of Italian seasoning to my meat mixture. Thank you so much. The frozen leftovers are thawing right now and I can’t wait to have them again. My husband loved these, too.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom November 7, 2009 at 12:52 pm




Randy November 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm

The recipe looks good, but your pricing is a bit unrealistic.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom November 16, 2009 at 1:41 pm


Prices are what I paid for the products :)


Lindsey December 19, 2009 at 10:58 am
nancy M May 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm

what would be good to use besides spinach.? something in its place.Thanks


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom May 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm

@nancy M,

Chopped broccoli would work.


karisa June 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm

How do you reheat the frozen leftovers?


Christine Milczarek January 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Stuffed shells just screams ricotta cheese to me! Do you think adding a scoop to the shells before adding the meat mixture would work? These look great, thank you for all you do! I have never kept track of how much I spend at the grocery store, so setting a price as a weekly budget might kill me. BUT, I am inspired by what you do and am seriously making an effort now to rein in our grocery spending. Thank you!


Kat January 31, 2011 at 10:51 am

Obviously I’m not Erin, but I bet if you added some Ricotta Cheese to the meat sauce (instead of the shredded cheddar) and mixed that together before stuffing and then top with the shredded cheddar when you bake them, it would be wonderful. You get the flavor and texture of the ricotta but don’t have to add as much as using it alone.

I’m going to try this one really soon – so many wonderful ideas.


Myra October 20, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I got this recipe from my daughter-in-law I had them last night my husband and sister-in-law are in love with them. They were very good


Crystal January 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I found these via pinterest and made them for dinner tonight. Loved them! I adapted it a bit to add veggies and take out the meat but provided a great base recipe.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom January 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Awesome…glad you enjoyed them!



Tiffany May 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm


I did saute some garlic in with the meat, and I added some lentils to stretch the meat mixture a little more. You can’t even tell, my husband who hates “weird” foods like lentils didin’t even notice.

I also added Italian seasoning and topped with parm and italian cheeses.

Thank you for the great recipe :)


Courtney November 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I made this tonight and it was great! I used one can of Hunt’s italian sausage pasta sauce and one can of garlic and onion. I used ground turkey and mozza cheese. I filled 2- 9×13 pans and still ended up with TONS of leftover shells. I had leftover creamy italian chicken in the fridge , so I put it through the food processor and used that to fill more shells (an 8×8 pan worth), then I poured a can of Progresso garlic sauce overtop, but there were still enough shells to at least have filled another 9×13 pan. So next time I think I will just use one box (from Wal-mart) for 2 pans. After I filled the shells I poured another can of Hunt’s pasta sauce (chunky vegetable) over the top because I was worried the pasta would dry out when it baked. I sprinkled the cheese on just during the last ten minutes. Loved it!


Courtney February 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm

**update** I made these again tonight and used 2 pounds of ground turkey and just one 12 oz box of American Beauty large pasta shells (keeping the same amounts for everything else) and the ratio was perfect!


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