When it comes to summer cooking and summer parties, I am a big fan of making recipes that can easily be multiplied enough to feed a large crowd. This stuffed shell recipe is up there as one of my favorites. Since I posted this recipe in 2011, I’ve made it for countless parties and get-togethers. It’s hearty enough that people don’t miss the meat and the homemade tomato sauce is perfect for all those summer tomatoes. Yes, it takes turning on your oven but in my mind, it’s well worth it. I’ve given notes in the recipe but the large shells are not readily available in whole wheat and so if you want a substitute, I recommend brown rice pasta (like these shells) or using rolled up whole wheat lasagana.
- 3 cups grape tomatoes
- 1/2 medium white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil
- 8 oz large conchiglioni shells (see note)
- 16 oz (1 container) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup shredded gouda
- 1/2 cup shredded fontina
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Basil, cut chiffonade for topping
- Pre-heat oven to 425˚ F. Toss tomatoes with chopped onion, chopped garlic and olive oil. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until tomatoes are tender and starting to pop. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Place roasted tomatoes in a food processor and add in basil. Pulse until the everything is well mixed. This can be made a day ahead of time if need be.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375˚. Cook pasta according to box, drain, and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese and egg, stirring until well combined. Add in cheese oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Grab a 9x9 square pan or a similar sized baking dish and place 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Take the slightly cooled pasta and spoon ricotta mixture into the center of each shell, roughly 2 to 3 tablespoons. Place open side up in the pan and continue until all the shells are full and in the pan. Sprinkle with cheese then spread remaining sauce over the stuffed shells (or reverse this and finish with cheese if wanting the cheese layer on top.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until sauce is starting to bubble. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil to serve.
+ Don't want to buy extra cheese? I'll occasionally use just mozzarella if that's all I have in the refrigerator.
I like to keep the ricotta filling fairly simple but there are easy ways to dress up this pasta dish. Also, you can easily use jarred tomato sauce but this homemade tomato sauce has much more flavor (and can also be used on pizza or to top spaghetti).
Tomatoes: I like the sweeter grape and cherry tomatoes for the sauce because it requires no cutting. However, plum or the meatier types of roma tomatoes also make for a nice sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with a sauce for these stuffed shells.
Greens: I love adding just-barely wilted greens to the ricotta mixture. Try spinach, chard, or kale wilted with a bit of olive oil.
Squash: Similar to the greens, roast finely diced zucchini and/or summer squash when you have the oven on to make the tomato sauce then add the cooked squash to the ricotta filling. I’ll occasionally do a couple cups of squash and take out some of the ricotta to reduce the amount of cheese I’m using.
While I pair this roasted tomato sauce recipe with the stuffed shells, I’m constantly making it throughout the summer to use on pizza and other pasta dishes (it works really well with lentil bites)! I recommend making up a big batch of roasted tomatoes so that you only have to turn your oven on occasionally. Also, if you have a good balsamic vinegar in your kitchen, I’ll occasionally add a splash to the pureed sauce.
First published on August 10th, 2011. Last updated on June 12th, 2016.