Sausage stuffed shells are a really easy Italian appetizer or main entree the entire family will love. They’re cheesy, savory, garlicky, and loaded with so much creamy ricotta flavor.
My stuffed shells are filled with ricotta and parmesan cheese, ground sweet Italian sausage, fresh basil, garlic, and an optional egg. They’re baked topped with a little marinara and plenty of mozzarella cheese until golden.
Do I Need the Egg?
No, not necessarily. The egg is typically added to stuffed shells to give the ricotta filling more body. Since my recipe calls for ground sausage, you can skip the egg if you want as the sausage will help hold the filling together better.
If you leave the sausage or beef out, I’d recommend using the egg.
Ground Beef Versus Ground Sausage
You can optionally make stuffed shells with ground beef in place of sausage. I just prefer the flavor of Italian sausage in pasta dishes—it just belongs together! The advantage of using beef is it’s easier to break into small chunks for the filling. Sausage can be a little more stubborn. If you like spicy, opt for hot/spicy Italian sausage for a twist.
Filling the Shells
You can do this in a few different ways. By spoon, or you can fill a plastic bag with a corner cut off and squeeze the ricotta filling in. Both move relatively quickly. If you’re feeding a small army, it may be faster to fill the shells using the pastry bag method. Just make sure you cut a large enough hole (3/4 inch) so the sausage/beef can slide through.
Finish With a Broil
If a recipe calls for a layer of melted cheese on top, I’m almost always finishing the baking with a quick broil. It will slightly crisp the cheese and give it a nice golden finish. Broil on high for 2-3 minutes but watch the dish closely as the cheese can burn VERY fast. There’s no going back…
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Jumbo stuffed shells filled with ground sweet Italian sausage, ricotta and parmesan cheese, fresh basil, garlic, and egg. Baked topped with a little marinara and plenty of mozzarella cheese until golden.
- 20–22 jumbo shells (12–14 ounce box)
- 24 ounces marinara
- 14–16 ounces ground sweet or hot Italian sausage (or ground beef)
- 2 cups (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2–3 garlic cloves, minced
- 6–7 basil leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta shells al dense, strain, and rinse with cool water.
- Meanwhile, in a cast-iron skillet, cook sausage until fully cooked through and browned, about 5-7 minutes. Use the tip of a spatula to break the sausage into the smallest chunks possible. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove pan from the heat.
- Transfer the sausage to a medium bowl with ricotta, basil. garlic, parmesan cheese, and egg. Stir until fully incorporated and creamy.
- Place 1 cup of marinara in the bottom of the same skillet. Fill each shell to the top with ricotta filling using a spoon. Arrange in the skillet as tightly as possible. I was able to fit about 22 shells in a 12 inch cast iron skillet.
- Top each shell with a heaping teaspoon of marinara. Layer the entire dish with about 1 cup of shredded mozzarella (more is OK too).
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is fully melted and golden. You can finish with a quick broil to give the cheese a little sear if desired. Let cool 5 minutes, top with extra chopped basil and serve.
If making a larger quantity of shells, you can bake in a larger baking dish instead. You will need to scale the ricotta filling as it’s enough for roughly 20-22 shells.
- Serving Size: About 3 shells
- Calories: 430
- Sugar: 1.9g
- Sodium: 864mg
- Fat: 21.6g
- Saturated Fat: 9.2g
- Carbohydrates: 32g
- Fiber: 1.4g
- Protein: 24.6g
- Cholesterol: 73mg
Keywords: stuffed shells with meat, beef stuffed shells, ricotta stuffed shells