Happy New Year! I’m excited to continue sharing delicious recipes from my kitchen to yours. As always, 90% of what I eat year round is FOR my health and that’s what I will continue to share here. That said, it’s early January and in CA we are in an unprecedented stormy pattern to begin the year and it begs for a cozy, comforty, make ahead kinda dish. If you’re counting, it has 4 kinds of cheese and I’m okay with that every now and then!
Welcome to the world’s most versatile dish. Stuffed Shells can be made a thousand different ways and dishes like these are great recipes to keep in your back pocket! Don’t have mascarpone? Sub with cream cheese, replace with more ricotta or skip it altogether. No carrots or bell pepper? Add mushrooms, zucchini, or spinach. It all works. I used to focus on veggie only fillings, and of course that works great, but now for added protein – something I’ve been focusing on for a few years – I almost always have high quality bulk sausage on hand. It is a quick and easy protein and delicious in this dish.
The other reason I love this dish is that is can be made ahead in a variety of ways – one way is to stuff the shells and add it to a disposable foil pan, sauce and all, and frozen. They can be baked straight from the oven this way. For a freezer with less room for foil pans – the shells can be stuffed, placed on a small sheet tray, and once frozen can be tossed into a plastic ziplock bag and you can pull out however many you need and cook in a prepared casserole dish – big or small!
Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Veggies
This recipe is such a great way to add extra veggies into an easy make ahead pasta dish. They freeze great and are a perfect dish to make early in the day for a busy evening. Feel free to swap out veggies for zucchini, spinach, mushrooms or whatever you have on hand – I almost never make the same veggie combo.
- 1 12 oz box of jumbo shells
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, finely chopped ~ 1 cup
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped ~ 1 cup
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 28 oz jar of pasta sauce I like Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Cook shells according to package – al dente is easiest to work with. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Place on a sheet pan while you prepare the filling.
In a medium skillet, brown the sausage. When cooked though with good caramel color, add the olive oil and onion. Saute until golden. Add carrots and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables are tender.
Add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook 1 minute. Take off the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the cooled sausage and veggie mixture to the bowl and mix well.
Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish. Add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of the dish. Fill shells with mixture and place in prepared dish. Cover with remaining sauce, remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, and parmesan.
Cover with greased foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until bubbly, removing the foil for the last 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with basil.
*If you have extra filled shells, you can use a small 8×8 dish and bake alongside the larger dish. Alternatively, I often place extra filled shells on a small sheet tray, freeze, then store in a plastic bag for another day.