12 ounces uncooked jumbo pasta shells (approx. 30-34 shells)
4-5 cups pasta sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
For the meat sauce:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (24- ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or basil
1 cup water
For the Béchamel Sauce:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200 °C.
Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water so that the shells don’t stick together and to stop the cooking process.
To make the meat sauce: Begin by combining the chopped onion, garlic cloves and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes or until soft and golden. At this point the garlic cloves will be very soft. Smash them with a wooden spoon or a spatula. They will melt into the sauce. (No need to chop them)
Add the ground beef and mix well over high heat.
Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano. Mix to combine.
Pour the cup of water over everything and mix one more time.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to the consistency that you prefer. You may cook it longer if you like a more concentrated, thick meat sauce or you can even add a little more water if you like a thinner sauce.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and set aside to come to room temperature.
To make the Béchamel sauce: Combine the flour and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk well while cooking a few minutes until toasted.
Slowly add the milk in a few batches, whisking to incorporate so that it is smooth and creamy. Adding the milk all at once will create lumps.
Cook until it comes to a boil and thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat.
Whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Add some of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and whisk to temper them so that they don't scramble when added to the cream sauce.
Add the eggs to the sauce and whisk well.
Add the parmesan cheese and mix to combine.
Pour a layer of tomato sauce in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
Stuff the shells with the meat filling and arrange the shells over the sauce.
Pour some béchamel sauce over the shells and top with shredded mozzarella cheese and some oregano.
There will be leftover tomato sauce, meat sauce, shells, and Béchamel sauce. Repeat the same steps and either freeze this tray for future use by covering tightly with plastic wrap then with aluminum. Or, bake this tray as well.
Bake the tray of stuffed shells (on the middle oven rack) covered with foil for 25-30 minutes, then uncover and bake until the cheese is golden by turning the broiler element on for the last 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that they don’t burn.
Make Ahead Freezer Instructions:
Thaw the tray of shells overnight in the refrigerator then bake as usual. If they are not thawed overnight, place them in the oven while it is still cold and allow them to warm through slowly while the oven is pre-heating. It will take about 15-20 minutes longer for the shells to cook.
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