Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Meat – loaded with creamy ricotta, parmesan cheese and melty mozzarella, add sausage or ground beef to make it a hearty meal.
Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Meat
Stuffed Shells are the ultimate cheesy comfort food. No need to boil these shells ahead of time, they get filled and go right into the slow cooker. The shells are piped with a mixture of ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese, then layered with cooked Italian sausage or ground beef and pasta sauce. Top with more mozzarella and fresh herbs for a cheesy Italian food favorite. I also have an Instant Pot version of this recipe, Instant Pot Stuffed Shells.
Stuffed Shells Ingredients
- Meat – Italian Sausage, Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, and Italian Turkey Sausage all work great. I like the Italian Sausage in this recipe because it adds a lot of flavor and we don’t have it as often as ground beef.
- Jumbo Pasta Shells – Sometimes these can be hard to find, so if I see them at the store I will grab a box or two.
- Ricotta Cheese – I’ve tried both part skim and whole milk ricotta in the recipe and both work. Whole milk ricotta adds a richer flavor overall, but it’s not that noticeable once the cheeses have been combined.
- Mozzarella Cheese – Freshly grated mozzarella cheese is great, but a good quality pre shredded mozzarella cheese works perfectly in this recipe and saves time. I like the rustic cut mozzarella.
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated parmesan is always ideal, but again, this recipe works well with pre-grated parmesan. Look for freshly grated parmesan cheese in the deli section. It’s usually in a small tub or cup alongside the specialty cheeses at the grocery store. Avoid inexpensive hard shredded parmesan in a bag, it doesn’t melt.
- Garlic – Finely minced since it will be combined with the ricotta
- Egg – Adds richness and helps bind the ricotta
- High Quality Jarred Marinara – Rao’s is my number one recommended store bought sauce. It’s high quality and has authentic homemade flavor. It’s consistently rated the top store bought pasta sauce.
- Seasonings – Kosher Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper, Italian Seasoning
- Fresh Herbs – Flat Leaf Parsley and Basil
How to Make Slow Cooker Stuffed Shells with Meat
Make sure to scroll down for full directions in the recipe card.
- Start by cooking ground meat of choice. This will be layered in with the stuffed shells.
- Spray 6 qt slow cooker with non stick cooking spray. This makes for easier clean up.
- Use a plastic baggie to fill uncooked shells with ricotta mixture.
- Layer slow cooker with marinara sauce, half of the shells, two-thirds of meat, sauce, remaining stuffed shells, then top with remaining meat and sauce. Then add water.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours.
- Top with mozzarella cheese and let melt.
- To make this recipe meat free, just leave the meat out of the recipe and keep same cooking time.
- Slow Cooker cooking times vary depending on the brand. I prefer to use the high heat setting for slow cooker pasta dishes.
- Use the recommended Rao’s marinara sauce for best results.
More Pasta Recipes
- One Pot Chicken Alfredo
- Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Alfredo
- Instant Pot Spaghetti
- Skillet Ravioli Lasagna
Creamy ricotta and mozzarella stuffed shells recipe layered with flavorful Italian sausage and cooked in a slow cooker.
- 1 pound Italian Sausage or Ground Beef, cooked
- 15 oz ricotta
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese divided
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
- 12 oz jumbo pasta shells
- 24 oz marinara sauce, Rao's recommended
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- Fresh Basil topping
Start by browning Italian Sausage. If using ground beef, season with salt and pepper.
In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, parmesan, egg, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and chopped parsley. Transfer mixture to gallon size baggie and snip corner to fill shells.
Spray slow cooker insert with non stick cooking spray. Use gallon baggie to fill uncooked pasta shells with ricotta mixture, transferring them to slow cooker as you fill. Layer slow cooker with 1/2 cup marinara sauce, half of the stuffed shells, two-thirds of meat, half of remaining sauce, remaining stuffed shells, then top with remaining meat and sauce.
Add water to Slow Cooker and sprinkle with Italian Seasoning and remaining salt and pepper. Do not stir. Cook for 3-4 hours on high, or 5-6 on low. Cooking times will vary depending on slow cooker. When shells are tender, top with remaining mozzarella cheese and recover with lid until cheese melts. Add fresh parsley and basil.
5 Easy Dinner Ideas for Busy Weeknights
My five FAVORITE recipes for busy families!
- Quick to make
- Light on your budget
- Easy to clean-up
- and...most important...absolutely DELICIOUS