I stumbled across a baked shells recipe from Half Baked Harvest and thought it looked SO yummy I wanted to try and make a version of my own! She put pesto in her ricotta and I thought THAT WAS SUCH A GOOD IDEA!! So I did that but also added some herbs and other cheese of my own and made a rage sauce similar to what I use in my lasagna – and it turned out AWESOME!!
Cheesy and saucy noodles with fresh herbs?? what could be bad about this y’all?? I mean it’s loaded with carbs – but it’s a total celebration meal and when you are celebrating carbs don’t count… and they don’t count on Mondays either 🙂
Pesto-Ricotta Stuff Shells + Sausage Ragu
- 1lb Italian sausage (I prefer Hot, use whatever version you like), ground or casing removed from links
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (I use closer to 6!)
- 2 cans San Marzano whole tomatoes, tomatoes and juice from one can, just tomatoes from other can (juice from both if you like a more liquid sauce)
- 1-2 tsp salt, more or less to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2-3 tsp oregano (I use ground, add to taste)
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp sugar if you are into adding sugar to your sauce (I skipped it here!)
- 2 tbs fresh Italian parsley, chopped (more to taste of course)
- 2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped (more to taste of course)
- 1 lb box jumbo shells
- 32 oz container of ricotta cheese (all that is offered at my store, for less get a 16 oz container!)
- 1/4 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade), more for on top if desired.
- 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped – I eyeball this
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped – I eyeball this
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 8 oz fresh parmesan, grated
- fresh herbs (basil and parsley) for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9″x13″ baking dish by spraying with cooking spray. set aside.
- Start with the sauce. Heat Medium sized dutch oven (or other sauce pan) over medium to medium high heat. Once hot, add your sausage and break it up a bit. Then add onions and garlic. Sauté until completely brown. (If you want to cook the sausage in a small bit of olive oil you can, but the sausage should have enough fat on its own to cook.
- Next, either use a colander to totally drain the fat from the meat or if there isn’t much (which was the case for me) ball up some paper towels and carefully soak up some of the fat as desired. Then crush in the whole tomatoes with your hand and add some of the juice. ***you can also just sub cans of crushed tomatoes, but I like chunks of tomato so I don’t!***
- Next add salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes, stir to combine. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer while you get everything else ready.
- Prepare you noodles according to package instructions. *** Be sure to salt the water – this is your chance to season the noodles*** You want them to be a little more firm than al dente because they will cook some in the oven. I did a minute or two less than the package recommended. Drain noodles and place under running cold water until they are a good temp to work with. Set aside.
- While waiting for the water to boil/noodles cook, make your ricotta mixture. In a medium mixing bowl add: ricotta, parmesan, pesto, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper (won’t need salt with the pesto + parm in the mixture). Stir to completely combine. Place in a large ziplock back so you can cut the corner off and pipe into shells (or alternately you can just spoon it into the shells – but that’s a tad more messy and more time)
- Now its time to assemble. Place 1/3 or so of sauce in bottom of baking dish (should cover the bottom of the pan. Place noodles on top of sauce, fillable side up! Fill with ricotta mixture. Spoon in rest of the sauce around the noodles. Top with mozzarella. At this point you have two options 1: go ahead and bake! 2: add some spoonfuls of pesto to the top of the dish, then bake! Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until cheese melted, slightly browned top, and the sauce is bubbly.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Finish with fresh herbs on top. and ENJOY!!
There are quite a few steps here y’all… but it is WORTH IT! You will smile and repeat “This is so good” all the way through your meal!!