Nonna Elda’s Stuffed Shell Pasta

Nonna Elda’s Stuffed Shell pasta has a mix of ground beef and ground pork (Nonna always mixes beef with pork because she says beef alone is dry and tasteless.) She often makes this dish for Easter dinner, but it’s a great one to make ahead and freeze and can feed a big crowd. So she will often make this for parties, or to keep on hand in case the big Italian family shows up at a moment’s notice!

This was my own favourite pasta as a kid, and it’s not really that hard to make but it is a little bit time consuming so prepare to be putting it together for about 40 minutes before it goes into the oven.

One of the trickiest parts of making stuffed shells is getting really good shell pasta! Poor quality shell pasta falls apart or rips too easily and you will be very frustrated. These ones from Cataldi’s worked really well! You have to pre-boil them like you do with lasagne before stuffing them.

Another place where this dish can be tricky is making sure the meat mixture keeps together. Don’t worry too much about the exact measurements, and worry more about whether or not after you mix it, and press the meat into little balls, does it stick? If it’s not staying together? Add a little more breadcrumbs, or partigiano cheese.

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Nonna Elda’s Stuffed Shell Pasta

servings: 12

prepping time: 40 min

cooking time: 45 min


  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 Chopped Onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 0.5 Kilo mixed ground pork & beef
  • salt, pepper, chili flakes to taste
  • Splash of white wine
  • Package of Shell pasta
  • 2 cups parmigiano romano shredded
  • 1 cup shredded mozarella
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 jar of marinara tomato sauce


  • Cut up your carrots, celery, and onion into little pieces
  • Fry in extra virgin olive oil until soft
  • Add your ground beef and pork,
  • add splash of wine, cook through
  • Season with salt, pepper, chili flakes
  • Boil your shells for 5 minutes then put in a big bowl with cold water and leave it there to cool
  • Take your meat mixture off the heat and let it cool off
  • Add your breadcrumbs, mozzarella, one cup of parmigiano cheese, 2 spoons of marinara sauce, 2 eggs, and mix very well with your hands, must stick together (if not add more cheese or breadcrumbs until it does stick)
  • Make little packed balls of the meat mixture and stuff them in your shells (make sure you shake off the water when you pull each shell out of the bowl of water) fill well.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350°
  • Place each shell meat side up on a deep baking dish,
  • Cover with the rest of your small jar of marinara
  • Add half a cup of water so that the shells have liquid around them Move the shells gently to make sure the sauce gets underneath each shell Top with the rest of the parmigiano cheese
  • Bake on the bottom rack for approximately 45 minutes, less or more, until it is cooked and the tops look crispy
  • *Note* You can freeze these on a tray before baking them, and keep them in the freezer for a couple of months.

Like Nonna’s Recipes? You can order her cookbook here!


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