Tangy Tomato Lamb Stuffed Shells

The good old stuffed shell. We love her. She’s usually full of ricotta, maybe some spinach and some ground meat, and baked in a sweet, herby tomato sauce. That’s her everyday *~lewk~* and it’s a classic.

Today, we’re dressing her a little differently because why not have a little fun sometimes!? I created these tangy tomato lamb stuffed shells because I was inspired by a Turkish dish called manti. If you’re not familiar with Turkish manti, it’s lifechanging. There are different versions of manti in the cuisines of South Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Balkans, Bukharan Jews and Chinese Muslims, but today I’m referring to the Turkish version. The little dumplings are full of an oniony ground meat (lamb or beef) and then tossed in a garlicky yogurt sauce and topped with a sweeter tomato sauce and some herbs. Of course, there are different ways to dress and serve manti, but I’m referring to the version that I had four years ago that I absolutely never forgot. To this day, I remember the first time I tried it. In terms of life events it goes: 1) getting married 2) getting our dog 3) trying manti for the first time — is that weird?

Now, here’s the deal. You’re not going to like thos dish if you don’t like tangy, creamy flavors. There’s a lot of yogurt influence. If you’re indifferent or “meh” towards yogurt, what I recommend you do is add the yogurt to the filling and then bake the shells in a tomato mixture sans yogurt. If you hateeee yogurt, I would still add a little dollop to the ground meat mixture (just a smidge!) and then skip it throughout. My husband hates yogurt and loved the filling, but didn’t like the yogurt sauce on top. So do with that what you will. Most importantly, follow your instinct because you know what you like best!

tangy tomato stuffed shells
tangy tomato stuffed shells

Tangy Tomato and Lamb Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are inspired by Turkish manti (garlicky, lamb filled dumplings in a tangy tomato sauce.) The shells are stuffed with a tangy tomato ground lamb mixture and baked with a sweet tomato paste and a garlicky Greek yogurt sauce. Topped with fresh parsley and olive oil.
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Servings 20 shells

Ingredients
  

Stuffed Shells

  • 1 box jumbo shells you will probably use 20-24 but its always good to have extra! I used Barilla brand
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or grated
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp dried or fresh parsley minced or flakes
  • Oil for pan preferably olive oil
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt I used non-fat
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • Fresh parsley minced, to taste (for topping)
  • Olive oil for topping

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce (for Topping)

  • 2 tsp garlic minced or grated
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt I used non-fat

Tomato Paste Sauce (for topping)

  • 4-6 tbsp tomato paste (just use what's left of your can)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Fill a large pot of water and salt generously. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a boil. 
  • While the water heats, prepare the ground lamb mixture. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground lamb, garlic, parsley, paprika, salt and cinnamon. Use your hands to really massage it together until fully combined. Set aside.
    ground lamb mixture tangy lamb stuffed shells
  • Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Season the pan with oil and once it’s shimmering, add the onion to the pan. Sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown. If the pan seems to get a little dry, add another splash before the next step.
    sauteeing onion
  • Add the lamb mixture to the skillet and use a large wooden spoon or spatula to break up the pieces and combine it with the onion. Let this cool for 4-5 minutes, until all of the lamb is no longer pink and the texture firms up. 
  • Add the 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup tomato paste to the pan and mix with your spoon/spatula until combined, 1-2 minutes. Remove the meat mixture from the heat and set aside.
  • Add the shells to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. This should be listed on the packaging under “pre-baking” cook time. My shells took 9 minutes.
  • As the shells cook, periodically stir with a spoon to make sure they don’t stick together. 
  • In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 tsp of minced garlic. 
  • In another bowl, combine the 6 tbsp tomato paste and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp of salt and mix together until combined. 
  • Drain the shells from the water and wait a few minutes for them to cool, but make sure they don’t stick together!
  • Take a clean baking dish (the one that you’re going to bake the shells in) and scoop some of the yogurt mixture and tomato paste mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Spread the mixture out with the back of your spoon to create a flavorful foundation for your shells.
  • With clean hands, fill each shell generously with some of the meat mixture. Once filled, place the shell in the baking dish. Repeat with all the shells and create a lineup in the baking dish.
    tangy tomato lamb stuffed shells before baking
  • Dollop the remaining tomato paste and yogurt sauce into the spaces surrounding the stuffed shells and generously drizzle olive oil on top. It may look ugly but it will come together.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Remove from the heat and top generously with minced parsley and olive oil. Serve immediately! Enjoy!
    tangy tomato stuffed shells
Keyword cinnamon, garlic, greek yogurt, ground lamb, jumbo shells, olive oil, onion, paprika, parsley, tomato paste

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