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Pesto Pasta Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara

This easy recipe for pesto pasta shells with italian sausage marinara is the best for parties, Christmas dinner and more! These pasta shells are stuffed with pesto flavored ricotta cheese and swimming in savory Italian sausage marinara!

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 down right 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 an 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) I have officially finished shooting sponsored work for 2018! And I only have 1-2 photoshoots to do for the rest of the year! My brother is coming into town next week so I’m trying to get in as much family time as I can. We have a very small, scattered family so I try and take advantage of the holiday time with everyone. 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 pasta shells with Italian Sausage Marinara on Christmas Eve! Are you guys cooking this year?! Hosting family?! I would love to hear about your plans!

Let’s talk about Christmas dinner for a minute, shall we?!

What do you guys typically eat on Christmas eve and Christmas day?! Or any of the December holidays for that matter! Are you a tamale person?! Ham and mac and cheese?! Italian fish feast?!

For as long as I can remember, we were your traditional ‘ham and mac and cheese’ family. Don’t get me wrong, I still love heading to my parents house for a little dried out ham (sorry Mom) and cheesy sides but for the last couple of Christmas’s I have LOVED Italian food around the holidays! The last two years Jared and I have had little personal lasagnas while we were decorating the Christmas tree and it really won me over! There is something so cozy about drinking endless red wine and flushing it down with delicious pasta!

This holiday season I wanted to make you guys something that screamed ‘elegant Italian Christmas dinner’ but would still be a 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!

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.

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! The marinara is super simple! I just grabbed two of my favorite marina jars from the store and mixed it in with my ground up cooked Italian sausage. If you love your pasta extra saucy have a small jar heating up on the stove when you’re serving it up!

Arrange your pasta shells and sauce in a large casserole and bake for 20-30 or until everything is bubbly and heated through. Serve with plenty of crusty french bread and red wine for an easy, yet elegant Christmas dinner.


Pesto Pasta Shells with Italian Sausage Marinara

  • Author: Elizabeth Van Lierde
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 20-25
  • Total Time: 40-45
  • Yield: 6-8 1x
  • Category: Dinners
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian



12 Oz (1 box) of jumbo pasta shells
15 Oz of ricotta cheese
1 Cup of pesto, divided
Salt + pepper
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon of minced Oregano
1 Teaspoon of crushed red pepper
2 Lbs of ground Italian sausage
2 Jars of your favorite marinara sauce
1 Cup of shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 Cup of shredded parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 F

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.

Bring 4-6 Quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta shells according to package until they are al dente. About 7-8 minutes.

While pasta is cooking prepare ricotta pesto filling. In a large bowl mix together ricotta, 1/2 cup of pesto, minced oregano, garlic, 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. 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. Top with shredded mozzarella, parmesan and sprinkle the remaining pesto. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and golden. Serve immediately.


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