Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Now I like to think that I am a good cook, but one of the real cooks in my family is my little brother, Fred. Unfortunately we live hundreds of miles away with me in Iowa and him in Philadelphia. Every time we are able to get together I love eating what he has cooking in the kitchen. I remember him telling me awhile back that he was making homemade spaghetti sauce and I immediately wanted to know how he made his version. It saddens me to admit that I have attempted to make spaghetti sauce before, with little success. Either the sauce is too bitter, too sugary, or just plain blah.  If his spaghetti sauce tasted like anything else he has made, I knew it would be the perfect addition to my hamburger meat week!

 Spaghetti Sauce


  •  1 small onion
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Crushed Red Pepper to liking
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 can Tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 small tomato (can use pureed tomato in addition to stewed tomatoes or in place of)
  • 1 can of water


Start by dicing onion very fine.

Brown your ground beef to a medium to medium well (the rest will cook while simmering). Add oregano at this time. I also added some of the onions.

While ground beef is browning, heat a separate large pot big enough for the whole batch of sauce. Heat your 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil. Once heated, sautee onions until soft and opaque in color.

Add brown sugar, chopped garlic, parmesan cheese, crushed red peppers, salt and pepper.

Once mixed, add  tomato sauce, tomato paste, stewed tomatoes or tomato puree, whichever you used, or both and can of water.

Bring to a boil while mixing slowly. Once boiled, bring to very low heat and add beef.

Let simmer on low for at least 15-20 minutes.

This sauce is versatile and can be used for many pasta dishes. Tonight, I decided to pair it with a three-cheese stuffed shells recipe from my good friend Mrs. D.

Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells


  • 16 jumbo shells
  • spaghetti sauce (homemade or jar)
  • 15 ounce ricotta cheese
  • 2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese diced (can substitute shredded cheese)
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, cut ( can substitue frozen spinach thawed and drained)
  • 2 green onion stalks, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cracked pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil jumbo shells in large pot of water until al dente. I personally like the Barilla Company. Made here in Iowa. 🙂

While shells are boiling, make the cheese filling. In a large bowl add diced mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and ricotti cheese.

Add spinach leaves, green onions, garlic powder, oregano, egg salt and pepper.  Stir with spoon until combined well. Set aside.

Once shells are done boiling, rinse with cold water. This will help so that they do not stick together and cooler to handle.

In a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan, spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom.

Using a small spoon, place a decent size amount of cheese mixture into each shell.

Repeat until all of the shells are filled. This amount made 16 reasonably stuffed shells. Not all fit into the 13 x 9 pan, so I placed the overflow shells in an 8 x 8 pan. Once shells are in the pan, spread more spaghetti sauce over the top of the shells.

Place uncovered pans in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. This is yet again another dish that you can smell baking in the oven and makes your mouth water as you wait patiently to bake.

In my world, there is no such thing as a pasta dish without garlic bread.  I prefer love to make my own garlic butter to spread on slices of french bread.

Garlic Butter

  • 1/2 stick butter room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated toasted onion (or onion powder)
  • 1 teaspoon Brady Street cheese sprinkle from Penzey’s (parmesan cheese will substitue well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine seasoning in with butter.

Using a rubber scraper, spread over sliced french bread. This amount of butter covered 6 slices of bread.

Wrap bread in foil and place in the oven while the shells are baking for the last ten minutes.

Now I don’t know about you, but I love garlic bread that has a little bit of crunch to it. If you are on my side, once you take the shells out of the oven to rest, spread your slices of bread on the foil and let bake for an additional five minutes for that crunch.

Now this dish does take a little bit of time, but to cut the time in half you could easily make the sauce on the weekend and store in the fridge until ready for use later in the week. Not to mention it is totally worth the work. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  1. Pingback: Homemade Pizza |

  2. Pingback: My Three Joys |

  3. Pingback: My Three Joys |

  4. Pingback: My Three Joys |

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