Easy Cheesy Sausage and Ricotta Stuffed Shells is a delicious main deal for the whole family. This recipe combines ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, and spinach, if you like, stuffed into the shells. A spicy layer of hot or mild Italian sausage completes the meal.4 A family favorite Italian dinner!
Hello, friends! I am popping in today to share these stuffed pasta shells with sausage and my love of Italian food. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am a major cheesehead. Smoked Gouda, Swiss, Sharp Cheddar, you name it and I probably love it. I even grate my own parmesan. It is much cheaper that way too!
So, of course, delectable cheese combinations find their way into my family’s dinner as well. Cheese and Italian food are the most frequent combination and with good reason. It’s delicious! One of my family’s favorite suppers is my Sausage and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells. Now I may be a cheese-head, but this dish really does need something more than just the ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan base. So I add spinach which also makes me feel good as a mom when I tell people, “Yes, my son eats spinach, no problem!” (We can keep the cheese part just between us.)
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Sausage and Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe Notes
First, let’s talk about garlic. Garlic is synonymous with Italian cooking and yet I am not that big a garlic fan. I mean I like it, but I want it to enhance a meal, not wince at the garlic flavor. Ok, now forget everything I said and add a TON of garlic to this dish. Over the years, I have found that the cheese filling really mellows the garlic flavor when it is baking in the oven. What works is basically adding garlic into the cheese filling a teaspoon at a time until you think you have put a little too much. Even at 4 tsp, I wince my eyes and think “Whew! Garlic!” (not in a good way) I’m telling you to go overboard! Be fearless! It will be amazing!
The second tip is that this stuffed shells recipe has always made more than a 9×13 standard baking dish size. This is not a mistake. I have had some boxes of those jumbo shells with like 1/3 of them broken and other times I just put the additional ingredients in a separate baking dish (I have used up to a 5×9 pan) for additional leftovers or possibly even a vegetarian variety. The best idea though is to freeze the second stuffed shells dish after it’s stuffed and set up for another night.
Making stuffed shells with spinach is exactly the same recipe, although you can easily skip it if you are not a fan. I just like to add a vegetable to the stuffed shells recipe because it’s pretty easy to mix in with all the cheesy taste. Mushrooms are another good option.
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Recommended Tools for This Stuffed Shells Recipe
- Jumbo shell pasta: I am only linking to this because there are a few different types of shells, but you want the biggest kind for this recipe.
- Jarred Spaghetti Sauce: Cuts down the prep time and this is my favorite store-bought sauc. You can find it in most grocery stores, so this is just a reference.
- Heavy Bottom Baking Dish: This is my most used baking dish, keeps heat even and it has survived years of kitchen abuse.
I’m hungry now. It’s almost midnight here so I’m thinking cheese and crackers for a late night snack. Do you have a favorite cheesy dish? I would love to hear about it, and maybe even swap some cheese-head love! (Or is that too cheezy, HA!)
- 1 package jumbo pasta shells 16oz
- 4 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
- 12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 Eggs lightly beaten
- 4 tsp garlic powder *see note
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 cup parmesan grated or shredded is fine
- 1 large jar spaghetti sauce
- 4 cups spinach rough chopped and stems removed if you prefer
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- dried parsley for garnish
In a skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain any excess fat and remove from heat. In the same saucepan, cook spinach until wilted or about 1-2 minutes. Cook the shells according to package directions (I cook them until they are pliable for filling and no more).
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 8oz of mozzarella, 1/2 cup of parmesan, eggs, oregano, and garlic powder. Stir in the spinach.
Coat the bottom of a 9x13in pan with the entire jar of spaghetti sauce. Spoon the cheese mixture into the shells and place shells open side up, very close together in the dish. There will be more shells than will fit into this pan and you can either make a second smaller pan (5x8 is good) or freeze for future use. Sometimes the shells also break in the box so this is fine.
Sprinkle the sausage over the top of the shells. Then sprinkle with the remaining 4oz of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. If you like a cheesy crust, you may broil it uncovered for 3-5 minutes (watch closely). Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
I am not a huge fan of garlic, but I find that this recipe really absorbs the garlic and mellows the flavor while baking. I usually put enough garlic powder until I think "wow, I put too much in". That is actually the perfect amount.
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