Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? I’d been craving them all winter, and figured I’d better get around to finally making them before the weather warmed up for good. When I think of stuffed shells, I think of tons of cheese, so that’s exactly how I made this version -- stuffed with three different cheeses and topped with spicy sausage tomato sauce.
The first time I ever had tomato sauce made with spicy sausage was back when Joe and I were living with my mom in 2005. My mom was a great cook, and she always made her tomato sauce with spicy sausage rather than ground beef. The first time Joe and I tried it, we fell in love with the flavor -- so since then, I’ve always used spicy sausage in my meat sauce (which, really, is just a jar of spaghetti sauce jazzed up with tons of other ingredients and spices. I keep it real.).
I winged this recipe, and it turned out absolutely delicious -- so creamy and cheesy, and just a little bit spicy from the sauce. I made a full box of stuffed shells, which I divided in half, and I froze one pan for a later meal. The only thing this was missing was a sprinkling of fresh basil on top!
Cheesy Stuffed Shells with Spicy Sausage Tomato Sauce
1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 30-ounce carton of ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup milk
1 pound spicy sausage
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook jumbo shells according to directions on package in boiling salted water; drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, combine ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and milk in a large bowl; set aside. When shells are cool enough to handle, stuff a couple of spoonfuls of the cheese mixture into each shell.
3. To make the sauce, cook spicy sausage in olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. When sausage is nearly cooked through, add bell pepper, onion, and garlic and continue cooking until vegetables are softened. Add spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread about a cup of sauce in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Add shells and cover with additional sauce. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving, if desired.