I will make these again and again–Italian cheeses with fresh basil stuffed in shells and baked in a rich and flavorful sausage ragu. This sauce can be used with any kind of pasta if stuffing shells isn’t your thing. I found it relaxing and therapeutic. You can also stuff the shells and use a store bought marinara if you’re in a hurry. I made these on Sunday and didn’t bake until Tuesday. They are delish!
Back To School? Cheesy Shells with Italian Sausage Ragu
Author: Tonja Engen
- For Italian Sausage Ragu:
- 1 pound, mild Italian sausage
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbls. Italian seasoning
- ½- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- For Stuffed Shells:
- 1 box (12.5 ounces) jumbo pasta shells
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 carton (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus extra leaves for garnish
- In a Dutch oven, cook pasta shells according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water.
- To make Italian sausage ragu heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add sausage and cook until no longer pink, 7-10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage into bite-sized pieces.
- Next, add the onion, Italian seasoning, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the pan with red wine using the wooden spoon to scape up any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste, mix thoroughly and bring sauce to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and season again with salt and pepper.
- To assemble shells, pour 2 cups of the sauce into large cast iron skillet or a baking dish.
- In a large bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, 2-½ cups of mozzarella, ½ cup parmesan cheese, and chopped basil.
- Stuff shells with cheese mixture and pour enough sauce over shells to cover them. You may have leftover sauce.
- Cover and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
- Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
- Sprinkle with additional basil leaves and serve.
Lois Demers says
The Italian Sausage Ragu was a major hit with family gathered at a socially distant table last night at Grant Park. Thx! Spamoni ice cream was a great ending to the Italian meal.
Lois I’m so glad you tried it and it was a hit! Love the Spamoni ice cream too!
Thanks so much!
Krisanne Hogan says
YUM!!! Sounds so delicious! Can’t wait to try. Love you recipes 😉
Thanks Krisanne!! Let me know how it turns out!
Krisanne Hogan says
Tonja, your sauce recipe was so worth the time and effort! It smelled so good simmering. My new go-to sauce.