Filled with pesto ricotta filling, these jumbo stuffed shells are simmered in rich Ragu sauce and topped with crispy Panko and creamy avocado. Lots of flavor and lots of texture! A delicious way to bring your family together at the dinner table.
Couple months ago, in my reader survey, many of you asked for more family meals and slow-cooker recipes. And I’m thrilled to share our family’s favorite dinner recipes with you here moving forward!
If you follow me on snapchat (username: shineshka), you already know that we take our breakfast and dinner seriously. 🙂 Even though, it’s just me and my husband (not for very long though), we always make sure to enjoy our breakfast together, discussing our daily plan, and end the day with a dinner at the dining table, sharing the highlights of our day. I know, not everyone has that luxury, but I think it’s important to have at least one meal together as a family every day. If I had to choose, it’d be dinner. Growing up, dinner was that one time in my family.
Today, I want to share with you one of our favorite comfort meals. Stuffed jumbo shells, filled with creamy pesto ricotta, simmered in rich Ragu sauce with Italian sausage, and topped with crispy Panko breadcrumbs. It’s actually perfect Sunday dinner. Plus, it makes a big batch, enough to have some leftover on Monday night. Win-win, right?
Yes, it requires a bit of hands-on time, but we’re taking a few shortcuts here without compromising on flavor.
Pasta: We’ll need to par-cook the pasta and cool it before filling them. Make sure not to overcook the shells, they’ll hold their shape and it’s much easier to handle.
Sauce: Sure, homemade pasta sauce is great and all, but I certainly don’t have time to make it from scratch every time. I always, always have a jar or two of Ragu pasta and alfredo sauces in my pantry. They’re great life-savers! Why I love Ragu over other sauces? First, the quality! They use vine-ripened tomatoes and aromatics, like garlic and herbs, and slow-simmer them per Assunta’s secret family recipe for an authentic rich Italian sauce. Second, Ragu sauces have no artificial flavors, no artificial colors, no high fructose corn syrup. So, I feel good using their products!
Ok, back to making the sauce: We’ll cook some mild Italian sausage and simmer it in the pasta sauce. I used Mushroom Ragu here, but any flavor will work.
Pesto Ricotta: Instead of traditional ricotta filling, we’re making it special with pesto! As you know, pesto is my favorite secret weapon, it lends so much flavor to anything it touches. And it’s no exception here! Try it!
Once, the above components are ready, it’s assembly time! Spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, fill and arrange the pasta shells, and then spread the remaining sauce all over. Final touch: mozzarella cheese!
At this point, you can cover and refrigerate it to cook later. Or bake it for about 30 minutes, and dinner is ready.
For added texture, I love to sprinkle some Panko and pine nuts and bake for another 10 minutes uncovered. And top with avocado right before serving. That last part is totally optional, but I highly recommend it! It adds beautiful creamy element against crispy breadcrumbs.
Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 12 oz 340gr jumbo shells
- 1 lb 450gr mild Italian sausage
- 1 23.9oz/677gr jar Ragu pasta sauce (I used mushroom flavor)
- 1 15oz/425gr tub ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons pesto
- 8 oz gr mozzarella cheese, grated
- ¼ cup 30gr pine nuts
- ¼ cup 15gr Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1 avocado optional
- Par-cook the pasta shells, according to package instructions. Drain the shells and cool them on a platter.
- In a large skillet, cook the sausage, breaking them into small pieces. Transfer the browned sausage onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess grease. Wipe off excess grease from the skillet and pour the Ragy pasta sauce. Add the sausage and bring it to simmer over medium low heat until heated through.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, eggs and pesto. Transfer the ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with round tip, or a ziplock bag with one corner cut.
- Spread about 1/3 of the sauce in 9×13-inch (23x33cm) baking dish. Fill the pasta shells with ricotta mixture and arrange them in a baking dish. Pour the remaining pasta sauce over the stuffed shells and evenly spread the grated mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove the foil and sprinkle the pine nuts and panko evenly and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Rest the dish on wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, cut avocado into small cubes and sprinkle on top right before serving.
Tips & Notes:
This post was sponsored by Ragu. All opinions are mine alone.