Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Move over lasagna, make way for stuffed shells!

There’s something whimsically satisfying about stuffed pasta shells. Is it the shape that conjures up a sunny day at the beach with ocean surf turning over pebbles and shells as the waves retreat? Or is it the seasoned ricotta stuffing hiding inside?

I’m guessing pasta shells were invented by some mischievous pasta maker who created the shape as an act of rebellion against every parent whose ever said to a child, “stop playing with your food.”

Mint Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

This stuffed shell recipe is a nod to spring, with a ricotta stuffing packed with chopped fresh mint leaves.

Usually when I add mint to a recipe, I do so in moderation. Mint is strong. But in this case, ricotta is stronger, and you do need the leaves from an entire bunch of mint to make an impact, and to hold its own with the flavors coming from the tomatoes and Italian sausage.

The combination? Fantastic! The mint, ricotta, tomato, pasta, sausage, together? Perfect.

Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

I love the taste and texture of a chunky tomato sauce with this recipe. But if you prefer a smoother sauce, please feel free to pulse it a few times in a food processor or blender.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces jumbo shell pasta (1/2 standard box)

Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage (out of casing)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (packed)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mint ricotta stuffing:

  • 15 (or 16) ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch of mint, leaves only, chopped (about 1 cup packed)
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Topping:

  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) grated Mozzarella cheese

Method

1 Pre-cook jumbo shells very al dente: Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil (1 Tbsp salt). Add the jumbo shells and cook until flexible but still quite firm (about 9 minutes if using Barilla shells).

You want to undercook the shells at this point so they will be firm enough to stuff and will continue to cook when you bake the pasta dish.

Drain in a colander and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Separate the shells so that they aren't folded into each other.

2 Brown the sausage, onions, garlic: While the shells are cooking start on the sauce. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Break up the sausage with your fingers as you add it to the pan.

Cook the sausage just until still a little pink, then add the finely chopped onions. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks of sausage into smaller bits.

Add the garlic and cook a half minute more.

3 Add tomatoes, water, parsley, salt, pepper: Add the canned crushed tomatoes and all of their juices to the sausage and onions. Add water (you can add water to the can, swirl it around to get what's left of the tomato juice in the can), chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

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Taste the sauce. If it tastes too acidic (this can happen, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes) you might want to add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the acidity.

Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to the lowest temperature to keep the sauce warm while you work on stuffing the shells.

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4 Make mint ricotta stuffing: In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, chopped mint, egg, salt, and pepper.

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5 Stuff the shells: Use a spoon to stuff about a heaping tablespoon of mint ricotta stuffing into each of the pasta shells.

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6 Layer sauce, shells, cheese in casserole dish: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish with a little less than half of the sauce.

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Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Cover with the remaining sauce.

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Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and grated Mozzarella.

7 Bake: Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven.

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MInt Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Showing 4 of 11 Comments

  • Zayra Reilly

    What can be added instead of mint or spinach to add to the ricotta mixture ? I am not too fond of mint and I am already making stuffed spinach ricotta shrimp shells thank you

  • Julianne

    Just made these and just ate them.. WOW does that mint ever make a nice change..thank you for this recipe.. it is a keeper.

  • Kate Runyon

    Hi Elise!
    This is very similar to a dish my Nonna would make for our whole family on Sunday’s…when I say whole , I mean all aunts, uncles, cousins and whoever happen ended to wander on by. She never included an egg in any of her pasta and ricotta recipes. If you use only the very best quality ricotta, it shouldn’t be overly liquidy and require a binder. Like my Italian grandmother, I strictly use my own homemade ricotta and agree…no egg needed! Same applies to lasagna recipes.
    Thank you for all the wonderful inspiration!
    -Kate

  • Bebe

    I have never made these with mint. Sound very good.

    I make the entire box of shells – fill them and put 1/2 of them in a ziplock freezer bag. Put them on a flat surface so that they are in a single layer and gently press out excess air before zipping closed. This package of stuffed shells stacks nicely and these are a wonderful homemade “go to”. All you need is sauce and cheese. (In a pinch I’ve used a good commercially made sauce.) They can be defrosted on the counter (or partially so), then used as in the original recipe. If fully frozen, a slightly longer baking time would probably be a good idea.

  • Carol Quinn

    This sounds great.
    When i fill my Shells i put the filling in a zip lock bag. Cut a hole in the point and twist to squirt filling into cooked shells. Very easy, Not messy & very FAST!!

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