September 1, 2015

Classic Stuffed Shells

Today's the first day of my birthday month. That's not usually a big deal but I turn 40 this year.

Eeek, right?

Not really. I’m kinda ready to be 40. I’m going to own my forties.

My twenties were about being young and free and stupid and liberated and fun and easy and quirky and adventurous and independent and ballsy. I can honestly say, I left no stone unturned. It was awesome. But ballsy adventures can’t last forever and toward the end of your twenties you start yearning for something more. Something with roots.

My thirties were about starting my life with my husband and babies. Those years were glorious and scary and beautiful and hard and spiritual and challenging and rewarding and teary and deep and inspiring and I had to dig for so much more than I thought I had and I almost ran dry but I didn’t and I learned what love is. My thirties were hardest. And my thirties rewarded me with the most.

Turning forty brings with it the realization that youth is not, in fact, eternal. So while my body still works like it’s supposed to, I am going to celebrate it. And I’m going to embrace the people around me because they are the people I choose.

Forty means I choose my tribe.

I am so blessed. I AM SO BLESSED. I am married to the love of my life. To a man who makes me laugh. I love him SO HARD and he loves me back even more. And our children are happily, healthily tumbling down their roads of life. They are kind little people with beautiful minds, gentle hearts and whole bodies and I am so grateful. SO GRATEFUL.

And what, you must be thinking, does any of this have to do with stuffed shells?!?!


But it’s my blog and I do what I want! (you can say stuff like that in your forties!)

This is a great recipe for feeding a crowd because you can double or triple it without any special effort. You can easily fill 3-4 of those big disposable aluminum pans with these and ring the dinner bell.

If you’d like to change things up a bit, feel free to use alfredo sauce instead of marinara!

Classic Stuffed Shells with Italian sausage, ground beef, spinach, garlic and herbs stuffed in jumbo shells then topped with sauce and cheese!

Classic Stuffed Shells with Italian sausage, ground beef, spinach, garlic and herbs stuffed in jumbo shells then topped with sauce and cheese!

Classic Stuffed Shells with Italian sausage, ground beef, spinach, garlic and herbs stuffed in jumbo shells then topped with sauce and cheese!

Classic Stuffed Shells
10 ounces jumbo shells (approximately 20-25 shells)
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed if applicable
1 pound ground beef
1 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained*
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 24-oz jar marinara sauce, divided
1 8-oz can tomato sauce (garlic and/or Italian herb flavored preferred)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cook shells in liberally salted water per manufacturer’s instructions for al dente preparation (you don’t want them to be too soft as they will continue cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, crumble sausage and ground beef in a large skillet and cook until nicely browned. Drain fat then add meat to a large mixing bowl. Add drained spinach, parmesan cheese, garlic, pepper, salt and 3/4 cup marinara sauce then mix well to combine.

Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a large baking dish (13x9 to 15x10). Stuff shells with sausage mixture and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. If you have any sausage mixture left over, just spoon it on top of or in between the shells. Pour remaining marinara sauce over shells. Top with cheese then bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Rest dish, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes approximately 5-6 servings.

*When I say drained I really mean it. I usually have to wring it out with my hands to get all the water out of it.

  • No, you can't make this in a crock pot.
  • You don't have to use the spinach if you're deathly allergic to it or hate it. 
  • Yes, you can use your own homemade sauce.
  • You can use mild or sweet sausage instead of hot.
  • If you use fresh spinach, you'll need to saute it first to cook out some of the water. 
  • Please, please, please shred your own mozzarella. 
  • Fresh parm is best but the green can can be used in a pinch.
  • If using shredded parmesan instead of grated, use a whole cup. 


This recipe was featured at the Weekend Potluck!

Classic Stuffed Shells with Italian sausage, ground beef, spinach, garlic and herbs stuffed in jumbo shells then topped with sauce and cheese!

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  1. Happy Birthday. I am also a September "baby" but I will be 65 this month. I thought the 40's were also wonderful but I have to say the 50's were better and so far I LOVE the 60's. Our children are grown and happy (no grandchildren but I can hope). My sweetheart is also retired and we get to spend a lot more time together. This month is also our anniversary month - 44 years, longer than you have been on this earth. Enjoy each day!

  2. Mandy - I haven't even read the recipe yet, but wanted to celebrate the message in your blog first and foremost. I'll be hitting the 4-0 mark this year as well and honestly you hit it all on the mark. Happy Bday and Here's to 40!

  3. 4th times' a charm? Happy Birthday month, 40's are fabulous, live it up and enjoy your birthday!! I just entered 50's and am embracing them as even better than 40's. I have 2 grands on the way and one grand here and it is FANTASTIC!!

  4. What is your favorite jarred marinara sauce?

  5. I use my potato ricer for squeezing out spinach and zucchini. Works great!!! Happy B month!!!!

  6. Happy Birthday month! I thought the 40's were fabulous, but I must say the 50's are even better. 56 and lovin' it.

  7. September is also my birthday month, and I'm also hitting a milestone -- 60!! Can't believe I'm that mind is still 20! Love this recipe, and pinning to make soon. I love the sound of Alfredo sauce on this. And breakfast sausage instead of Italian. Fennel and I don't get!

  8. Another Virgo Sister here as well! I am 66 this month and if I had to pick the age I feel, I would say 43. But this is because most Virgos take good care of themselves (even though we cheat a lot).

  9. Making this for dinner tonight & it smells AMAZING!! What do you bake it at? 350*?

    1. Yes! Sorry! Not that this is any help to you 6 weeks later! Sorry, I didn't see this comment until now :)


Hi there! While I'm not able to respond to every comment, I try hard to answer any questions that haven't been addressed in the post, recipe or in other comments. And though I may not respond to them all, I do read each and every comment and I LOVE to hear from you guys! Thanks, y'all! - Mandy

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