Mint Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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.

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

Ingredients

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

For the 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

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

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

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 ricotta stuffed shells - filling with mint

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 perfectly stuffed shells with ricotta cheese and mint

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 layering sauce and stuffed shells for baked stuffed shells

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 stuffed shells layered with sauce ready for baking

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

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Comments

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • 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!!