Easy Sausage Stuffed Shells are loaded with meaty goodness, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes and cheese – making for the ultimate weeknight dinner.
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This stuffed shells recipe is loaded with both flavorful sausage and vegetables. That is a balanced meal if I ever saw one!
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How long has it been since you had stuffed shells? Or if you haven't, what's taken you so long?
Adding mushrooms and other veggies to sausage stuffed shells is great for extending the meat
These cheesy wonders are a classic Italian fare and usually stuffed with a creamy mixture of ricotta and Parmesan. I've taken mine to the next level by including Italian sausage (sweet or hot, you choose!), meaty mushrooms and spinach. The flavor is out of this world!
Adding mushrooms, like button mushrooms, to meat, adds flavor but also extends the meat so you don't need to buy as much. For the picky kids, chopped mushrooms mixed into the meat is almost undetectable!
I add mushrooms to my hamburgers for this reason too! Check out how to make a better burger with mushrooms.
I mixed in diced eggplant and spinach to up the vegetable intake too. The sausage is so flavorful you still get meaty goodness with all the added vegetables.
What are stuffed shells called?
Conchiglie, meaning shell or seashell, is the type of pasta you want to look for. Granted, on the store shelves here in the U.S. of A. they are usually just called "shells." Of course you've seen the little ones, but if you've never used this giant variety you're in for a treat.
In the box they don't look like much. Just the mama-size of the baby shells most of us cover with cheese sauce. But, when cooked, they are the size of your palm and beg to be filled with goodness!
So what is the difference between stuffed shells and manicotti?
The difference between stuffed shells and manicotti is literally just shape. You can stuff both kinds of pasta with similar fillings, usually including ricotta, spinach and cheese. Manicotti means "little muffs," and is just a different shape of stuff-able pasta than jumbo shells.
How to make stuffed shells
The recipe is simple, and uses a few prepared ingredients like shredded cheese and jarred tomato sauce to speed up the cooking process. Less prep!
Stuffed Shells are jumbo! The size of your palm, and beg to be filled with goodness!
I cooked everything in one skillet, so there is so much less cleanup.
I cooked onions, mushrooms and sausage, added some cheese and spinach. Stuffed that deliciousness in the giant shells then sautéed fresh eggplant with tomato sauce. After that it goes in the oven and you're free!
Can you freeze cooked stuffed shells?
I love the fact that I made this recipe big – big enough that you can either serve them all to your giant Italian (insert any country, state or county) family on Sunday, or make two pans and freeze one for next Wednesday when you are so, over, cooking!
Yes, you can freeze cooked stuffed shells. The pasta gets cooked before you stuff each shell and once the dish is completely assembled, I'd wrap it and freeze it.
If you have already baked the entire dish, you can still freeze it, but you may want to add more sauce or cheese if you are re-baking it after thawing.
Scroll to the bottom for the recipe PIN and more easy pasta dinner ideas.
Don't miss more of my easy, and popular pasta recipes, like Fresh Green Pesto Pasta with Lemon Ricotta Cream!
Easy Sausage Stuffed Shells
- 30 jumbo pasta shells 12-oz pkg
- 3 links hot or sweet sausage casings removed
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 8 oz white button mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1¾ cups shredded Italian blend cheeses
- 1 cup 2 oz baby spinach leaves
- 1 oz eggplant (12 oz) cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 26- to 28- oz jar garden-style pasta sauce
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add pasta and stir. Bring back to a boil, cover and remove from heat; let stand 10 min. Drain and rinse pasta; set aside.
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage, onion and mushrooms, breaking up sausage, until onion is tender, 8 to 10 min; set aside.
- In a bowl, combine ricotta, egg, ¼ tsp salt, ½ cup cheese blend and spinach. Stir in cooked sausage mixture; set aside.
- In same skillet, cook eggplant, stirring until just softened, about 8 min. Add pasta sauce and remaining salt and bring to a boil.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Spoon ⅔ of the eggplant sauce into the bottom of a shallow 2½-quart casserole dish. Fill each shell with about 2 tbsp sausage mixture, arrange in dish and spoon remaining sauce over shells. (Wrap and freeze at this point if desired.)
- Cover and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 25 min. Remove from oven and sprinkle shells with 1¼ cups cheese blend; bake, uncovered, until cheese has melted, 8 to 10 min more.
For more easy pasta dinners like these stuffed shells, try some of my favorites from around the web:
Recipe by Tara Teaspoon. Photography by Jason Donnelly. Food Styling by Nicole Faber. Prop Styling by Carol Linnan. Originally published 1/09 in LHJ.