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Pesto Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara

An easy Pesto Stuffed Shells recipe made with jumbo pasta shells, pesto, and creamy ricotta – all swimming in a savory Italian sausage marinara! With the option to prepare the stuffed shells in advance, all you have to do is bake it right before serving. Enjoy it as an elegant dinner for Christmas and the holiday season.

pesto stuffed shells with Italian sausage meat marinara in white casserole dish on white kitchen towel with spoon

5 DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS! Are you reaaaady?!

If you didn’t know I have been doing 12 days of Christmas giveaways on Instagram and we are down to the final 11th and 12th giveaway! Which might I add are going to be downright amazing! I was feeling so extremely grateful for all of my wonderful readers this year. Not only did you guys support my first year of blogging full time (woo hoo!) but you also helped me win a coveted Saveur Magazine award for Best Entertaining Blog. Grateful is truly an understatement.

To give back, I decided to round out 12 of my ‘favorite things’ and give them away on Instagram. The response has been so fun and I love the energy that you guys brought to each entry. I will be sure to throw in some more giveaways in 2019! I love feeling like Oprah 🙂

Aside from trying to keep up with all the giveaways (it was a lot to do okay lolz), this Sunday we are starting parties out at my grandpas, heading to my Nannas after that and then my parents for Christmas day. I’m hoping to squeeze in these Pesto Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara on Christmas Eve!

Let me tell you, they are extraordinary!

pesto stuffed shells with Italian sausage meat marinara in white casserole dish on white kitchen towel with spoon

This holiday season I wanted to make you guys something that screamed ‘elegant Italian Christmas dinner’ while still being quick and easy! These pesto pasta shells with sausage marinara are equal parts tasty and simple to make!

Whenever I am making a recipe for a crowd, I love to serve things that just need to be baked off into the oven. In my opinion it’s the easiest way to serve a large group of people. Plus, I want to spend as much time drinking cocktails, watching Christmas movies and hanging with my fam. And eating tons of pasta and cookies!

Ingredients

This pesto stuffed shells recipe is made with ground Italian sausage, marinara sauce, jumbo pasta shells, ricotta cheese, pesto, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt + pepper, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

  • Marinara Sauce: The marinara is super simple! I just grabbed two of my favorite marinara jars from the store and mixed it in with my ground up cooked Italian sausage.
  • Pesto: If you heat up pesto, even the store-bought kind, the fresh flavor of basil will sort of diminish and it can develop an unpleasant taste if heated too much. All you have to do it pop open the jar and mix it into the fresh ricotta – super fast and easy!

cheesy pesto stuffed shells with marinara sauce in white casserole dish

How To Make Pasta Stuffed Shells

What I love about this easy pasta recipe is that it’s technically baked off like a casserole BUT it oozes elegance of a fancy dinner. It can be prepped and assembled ahead of time and baked right before Christmas dinner!

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat a medium-large saute pan on medium heat. Add in sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes, then add marinara sauce and stir together. Bring sauce/sausage mixture to a small simmer and remove from heat. Transfer sausage marinara mixture to a large casserole dish.
  3. Cook pasta shells according to package directions until al dente, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. While pasta is cooking, prepare ricotta pesto filling. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 1/2 cup of pesto, minced garlic, minced oregano, red pepper and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper. Stir together until smooth and creamy. Transfer filling into a large zip lock bag and remove the tip.
  5. Drain pasta shells and run under cool water until they are cool enough to touch. Fill shells with ricotta filling and arrange pasta shells into sausage marinara filled casserole dish.
  6. Top with shredded mozzarella, parmesan and sprinkle the remaining pesto. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly and heated through.

cheesy pesto stuffed shells being spooned out from casserole dish

How To Cook Shell Noodles – To Keep From Falling Apart

If you’ve never really worked with pasta shells, just be sure to cook them al dente so they won’t fall apart on you so easily while you’re filling them! After I made my ricotta pesto filling, I transferred it all into a big freezer storage ziplock bag, cut the tip off and filled in my shells this way. WAY easier than using a spoon!

Make The Stuffed Shells With Meat In Advance

Just prep and assemble the pesto stuffed shells one day in advance, cover and set in your fridge. When ready to bake the next day, you may need to add a few minutes to the baking time to account for it being chilled in the fridge.

close-up of pesto stuffed shells in Italian sausage marinara sauce

How Many Ricotta Stuffed Shells Does This Make

I got about 25 stuffed shells from a 12 oz box of jumbo shells. If you have a 1 lb box, you may want to cook the whole box just in case you have extra filling or some rip during the filling process.

Serving Suggestions

Serve these ricotta stuffed shells warm from the oven with plenty of crusty french bread and red wine for an easy, yet elegant Christmas dinner.

If you love your pasta extra saucy, have a small jar heating up on the stove when you’re serving it up!

pesto stuffed shells with Italian sausage meat marinara in white casserole dish on white kitchen towel with spoon

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:

If you make these Pesto Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara, I’d love to know how it goes! Please share in the comments below!

For more easy recipes and ideas, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, too!

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pesto stuffed shells with Italian sausage meat marinara in white casserole dish on white kitchen towel with spoon

Pesto Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara

  • Author: Elizabeth Van Lierde
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 45
  • Yield: 6-8 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

An easy Pesto Stuffed Shells recipe anyone can make. Large pasta shells stuffed with pesto, creamy ricotta and swimming in savory Italian sausage marinara!


Scale

Ingredients

2 lbs ground Italian sausage

2 Jars your favorite marinara sauce

12 oz (1 box) jumbo pasta shells

15 oz ricotta cheese

1 cup pesto, divided

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon minced oregano

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

salt + pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Heat a medium-large saute pan on medium heat. Add in sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Add in sauce and stir together. Bring sauce/sausage mixture to a small simmer and remove from heat. Transfer sausage marinara mixture to a large casserole dish.
  3. Bring 4-6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta shells according to package directions until al dente, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. While pasta is cooking, prepare ricotta pesto filling. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 1/2 cup of pesto, minced garlic, minced oregano, red pepper and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper. Stir together until smooth and creamy. Transfer filling into a large zip lock bag and remove the tip.
  5. Drain pasta shells and run under cool water until they are cool enough to touch. Fill shells with ricotta filling and place into sausage marinara filled casserole dish. Continue until all shells are filled.
  6. Top with shredded mozzarella, parmesan and sprinkle the remaining pesto. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly and golden. Serve immediately.

Notes

To make in advance: Prep and assemble the pesto stuffed shells one day in advance, cover and set in your fridge. When ready to bake the next day, you may need to add a few minutes to the baking time to account for it being chilled in the fridge.

Keywords: pesto stuffed shells, pesto pasta shells, ricotta stuffed shells, stuffed shells with meat

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