Stuffed Shells with Bolognese Sauce

There’s a good reason why this picture of stuffed shells is half eaten. After writing about my mother’s Sunday Gravy last week on Bay Area Bites, I was really in the mood for a hearty Italian dish. Although I was tempted to make the gravy itself, I was too exhausted after adopting a puppy last Saturday. Bolognese seemed a nice compromise, and what better way to eat it than with stuffed shells. By the time the dish was finished, my family and I didn’t waste a moment before we dug into this cheesy dish topped with a slow-simmered meat sauce. It wasn’t until we were done eating and I was sipping what remained of my glass of red wine that I realized I forgot to take the picture. Oops.

Stuffed shells is one of those great dishes that looks difficult, but is actually very easy. After making a simple beef Bolognese, it’s just a matter of cooking the shell pasta until it’s al dente and then stuffing them. You can even make everything a day ahead, and then assemble when ready to bake.

My baked stuffed shells with Bolognese really hit the spot, satisfying my craving for a rich Italian meaty sauce without all the work of making a traditional gravy.

Simple Beef Bolognese

1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 pound ground beef (preferably not too lean)
1 medium onion diced into small pieces
1 medium carrot diced into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 small can tomato paste
1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with the juices
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef or chicken broth or water
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp fresh basil chopped

Preparation

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot or pan (I like to use cast iron or a Le Creuset)
  2. Add onion, carrots, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add meat and cook until it is lightly browned
  4. Incorporate the tomato paste and herbs into the meat and cook for another five minutes
  5. Add the wine and broth or water and stir, being sure to scrape the pan to deglaze any meat or tomato juices from the bottom
  6. Add the tomatoes and some salt and pepper to taste
  7. Simmer covered for at least an hour, preferably a little longer

Stuffed Shells

1 box of large pasta shells
1 8-ounce container of fresh ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 Tbsp fresh parsley or basil
Salt and Pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Note: Double the ricotta cheese, egg, and Parmesan cheese if you want the dish to be extra cheesy.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cook pasta in salted water until it’s al dente
  3. Rinse pasta under cool water
  4. Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, herbs, and some salt and pepper together in a bowl
  5. Ladle some of the Bolognese sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside
  6. Stuff each shell with some of the ricotta mixture and then place in the prepared baking dish
  7. Cover the stuffed shells enough sauce to cover the pasta
  8. Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
  9. Cover with aluminum foil, oiled on the bottom side
  10. Bake for 35 minutes covered, and then 10-15 more minutes uncovered or until the cheese are bubbling and the dish looks done.
  11. Serve with any extra Bolognese sauce
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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    tina said,

    made this last night to rave reviews. the sauce smells so good while it’s simmering, which i only did for an hour due to poor planning. still tasted yummy. i used 16 oz of ricotta, not 8, for the filling. even this amount seemed a bit sparse. i got a small dollop into each shell. camille would be proud ;) thanks for the recipe!

  2. 2

    dslincoln said,

    I’m so glad you tried it. It sounds like it was super cheesy. I’ll tell Mom. She’ll definitely be proud!

  3. 3

    Stacie said,

    I made this last today for my husband (who is a VERY picky eater) and my mother and father in law. My father in law is also a super pick eater!! Everyone raved about it all night! Thank you sooo much for an amazing and easy to follow recipe!!

  4. 4

    YUM!! I absolutely LOVE stuffed shells! Thanks for the recipe! :)

  5. 6

    The Recipe Hunter said,

    I made your recipe and I must say that it was WONDERFUL!!! I love trying new recipes like yours when I cook for my family so this was an excellent find for us all. I made it as stated, but I didn’t use red wine – just beef broth. I also added some plain, canned tomato sauce to make more of it and used 32 oz of ricotta cheese, plus half a teaspon of red pepper, and a teaspoon of salt and pepper for spice. Also, the sauce smelled great while it cooked and had such a great flavor that complimented the shells very well. This is easily one of my new favorites and I’m soooo happy to have found your recipe.

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!! You’re the best!! :)


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