Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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.

Mint Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
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 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."

Stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and mint filling
Elise Bauer

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

Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 75 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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.

    How to make stuffed shells - sauce on stovetop
    Elise Bauer

    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.

    Bunch of mint for Ricotta stuffed shells
    Elise Bauer
  4. Make mint ricotta stuffing:

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

    How to make stuffed shells - ricotta stuffing
    Elise Bauer
    ricotta stuffed shells - filling with mint
    Elise Bauer
  5. Stuff the shells:

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

    Stuffed shells with ricotta and mint mixture
    Elise Bauer
    perfectly stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and mint
    Elise Bauer
  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.

    preparing pan for baked stuffed shells
    Elise Bauer
    layering sauce and stuffed shells for baked stuffed shells
    Elise Bauer

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

    How to make stuffed shells - layering shells and sauce for baking
    Elise Bauer
    stuffed shells layered with sauce ready for baking
    Elise Bauer

    Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and grated Mozzarella.

  7. Bake:

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

    baked stuffed shells out of the oven
    Elise Bauer
Large bite of cheesy stuffed shells
Elise Bauer