These Sausage Stuffed Shells have jumbo pasta shells stuffed with sausage and three types of cheeses, baked in a delicious homemade marinara sauce.
Since I write a lot about cooking, I’ve mentioned my college cooking days many times. My sophomore year of college, my roommates and I decided we needed to learn to cook, and we took that goal seriously. The Christmas I was 19 years old, I asked my parents for almost all kitchen supplies and cookbooks. It was a glorious Christmas.
One of the cookbooks I received that year had a particular recipe for stuffed shells. It was one of the first recipes that after making it made me think, “hey, this tastes like something my mom would make!” I was proud, and made those shells regularly over the next few years.
These days, I don’t eat much cheese. But my kids, they would eat it by the pound if I’d let them. I have seen my two year old daughter lay on the floor and cry, while screaming, “CHEESE!” because I cut her off after three pieces.
One of my friends witnessed one of these episodes and said, “Is she yelling ‘cheese’?” When I said yes, she said to my daughter, “Girl, I get it. I want all the cheese too.” I don’t get THAT kind of cheese love, but I’m glad I have friends who can relate to my kids’ desires.
Both of my kids also love pasta, so I try to work some pasta and cheese into the rotation every few weeks. Recently I was thinking about those college pasta shell days, and decided to make a new rendition for my family.
Sausage Stuffed Shells
If you sign up for my website e-mails, you’ll get a little cookbook that includes my version of the college-era stuffed shells. I wanted to make these a bit differently though. Those are delish, but I wanted these to have a touch less cheese and sausage in the filling.
For this version of the shells I made homemade marinara, but a more savory version than a typical sweet marinara. The result was fantastic. My entire family adored it.
I really don’t think you’re going to have trouble making these, but here are a few tips:
- Use oil in the water when you make the shells (I know there is a lot of debate on if you should use oil in pasta water, but I use it for shells and other ‘heartier’ pasta as it helps to keep the water from boiling over if I get distracted), stir occasionally while they’re cooking (this helps to keep the shells from sticking together), and immediately rinse them with cold water when they’re done cooking (this prevents the shells from over cooking, and from sticking together).
- This recipe fills every bit of a 9×13 baking pan. If your pan is filled too close to the top, split the recipe between two pans.
- If you can’t find ground Italian sausage, I also like mild breakfast sausage. No one is ever sad about some Jimmy Dean sausage in their dinner.
Sausage Stuffed Shells
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage mild
- 1 medium onion chopped (minus ½ cup that you will set aside)
- 2 cloves fresh minced garlic
- 14.5 ounce can Italian stewed tomatoes
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Shells and Filling
- 12 ounce box jumbo pasta shells
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped finely
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Heat sausage in a large sauce pan (5 quarts or larger), over medium-high heat on stove top. Saute until sausage is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove meat, leaving fat in bottom of pan.
- Add all of the chopped onion to pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Once softened, remove from pot and set aside (take ½ cup of the cooked onion and keep this separated to use for filling). Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Then, add Italian stewed tomatoes (do not drain), tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine, oregano, garlic, thyme, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
- Next add half of the cooked sausage and the remaining onion. Again, stir well, using spoon to break up large chunks of the tomatoes. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let sauce simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Cook pasta shells according to package instructions.
- In a medium sized bowl, beat egg, then stir in cottage cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, nutmeg, salt, remaining half of sausage and remaining ½ cup cooked onion. Stir until well mixed.
- Fill shells with filling (you will use almost all of the shells).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Pour sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 or larger baking dish. Evenly space out stuffed shells in sauce.
- Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Garnish with additional fresh parsley for serving, if desired.
Disclaimer: All nutritional information provided on this website is an estimate only and is not guaranteed.
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Links to items used to make this recipe: