Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

DinnerItalianRicottaSausage

Stuff these shells with mint and ricotta, then bake them with Italian sausage and tomato sauce. They're amazing! These stuffed shells are perfect for a family meal or a potluck.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Stuffed Shells

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 the stuffed shells?

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

How to make stuffed shells with ricotta and mint

A Spring Twist to Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are 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 in these stuffed shells – 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.

Check Out These Other Great Pasta Dishes!

Updated March 1, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes were made to the original recipe.

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)

For the sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin 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

For the 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

To top:

  • 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; they 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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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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Large bite of cheesy stuffed shells

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

14 Comments / Reviews

No ImageMint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Florence Jensen

    I never pass up an opportunity to try a new stuffed shells recipe! Because I cook with my family in mind, I knew better than to put mint in the filling because it steers from traditional. The shells were perfect with the exception of the mint. I liked meat in the tomato sauce, but the herb in the filling should have been fresh parsley or even fresh basil rather than mint and in a smaller amount. I baked the shells for 45 mins, covered and then uncovered them for an additional ten minutes in the oven to lightly brown. All in all it was a good dish.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Kathy

    I thought this was excellent, and finally-a recipe that doesn’t use spinach-I like it, but I can’t have it, so I generally just leave it out, but I am going to try the arugula, when I can find it. It’s a total keeper, but 30 min @ 350º is just not enough to bring the interior of the shells in the center to a safe 160º.

    Cooking time in the general information section is listed as 1 hour, not the 30 minutes in the recipe instructions. Does this include the time for the sauce? I had to give it over an hour and I finally raised the temperature to 425º.

    I’ve already divided it up and will freeze individual portions. Thanks for the excellent recipe. I was tempted to add mushrooms to the sauce, but didn’t-I didn’t think they’d go with the mint, and I was taking a leap of faith to begin with. Who knew mint would work with this? It totally does!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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  3. 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

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  4. 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.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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  5. 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

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Stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and mint fillingMint Ricotta Stuffed Shells