Stuffed Shells with Sausage

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The ultimate BEST EVER stuffed Italian Sausage Shells -- easy and delicious!! via chelseasmessyapron.com

Delicious, extra-cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner so fast and easy to make. 

 

Overhead view of a pan of Stuffed Shells with Sausage, topped with melted cheese and basil chiffonade.

Stuffed Shells with Sausage

My kids love red sauce and noodles — they ask for it just about every single day so I have to get a little creative in the way I’m dishing up those red-sauced noodles.  Sometimes it’s this turkey bolognese or this spaghetti bolognese and other days I rely on these tried-and-true Stuffed Shells with Sausage or these chicken parm stuffed shells.

They’re the perfect easy weeknight dinner, thanks to a few shortcuts, which I’ll share below!

Process shots: sauté onion and garlic in olive oil; add beef, sausage and seasonings; brown well; mix cream cheese, cheeses and egg; add beef mixture into the cheese mixture.

Recipe Shortcuts

  • Marinara sauce. The main shortcut is using store-bought pasta sauce. While making homemade is simple, it still takes time and dirties another dish. Our two favorites to use in this recipe are Classico® Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce or Rao’s® marinara sauce. A good marinara makes a huge difference and give you an authentic Italian flavor without any extra effort. And because a good marinara sauce has so much flavor, we don’t need to add many additional seasonings and spices to these Stuffed Shells with Sausage.
  • Seasoned cream cheese. No need to chop onions for this Italian dish! Try using green onion & chive cream cheese, which brings out the traditional onion flavor in an Italian dish without any extra work.
  • Pre-shredded cheese. I’m usually all about shredding cheese off a block, but for this recipe, it works to use pre-shredded. I recommend an Italian blend so it further intensifies the Italian-inspired flavors in this dish.
  • Pre-chopped or frozen yellow onion. If you’re looking to save even more time, you can generally buy pre-diced onions in the produce section of the grocery store or even in the frozen aisle.

QUICK TIP

If you’d like to sneak more veggies (and flavor) into these stuffed shells with sausage, saute some finely diced carrots, celery, and/or diced green pepper along with the onion. You can buy these veggies frozen, typically the combination is labeled as “mirepoix”

Process shots: spread marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan; cook and drain shell pasta; stuff shells with the meat and cheese mixture; cover with marinara sauce and bake; add cheese and continue baking; add fresh herbs and serve.

Stuffed Shells with Sausage Tips

  • Cook a few extra shells. Occasionally a shell (or a few!) will break, so boil a few extra shells to use just in case that happens. Any leftovers can be chopped up and eaten with marinara sauce.
  • Salt the pasta water. Make sure the jumbo pasta shells are well salted as they cook, since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta and the entire dish can taste bland with un-seasoned pasta. Read about how to properly salt your pasta water here. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water.
  • Stuff the shells efficiently. Add the cheese and sausage mixture to a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag. Press the cheese mixture to one side of the bag and using scissors, cut off a 1-inch opening in the corner. Squeeze the cheese mixture into each shell and gently press the mixture down to fill the shells.
  • Completely cover the shells with sauce. Aim to cover every part of the shells with marinara sauce so you don’t get tough, overcooked edges of pasta.
  • Make ahead. Stuffed Shells with Sausage can be made up to a day in advance and then baked when you’re ready. If you make this recipe ahead of time, prepare them fully but do not bake. Once ready to bake them, bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil, and then uncover the shells and finish baking according to the recipe directions.

Up-close image of a serving spoon scooping out Stuffed Shells and Sausage.

How to freeze Stuffed Shells with Sausage

I don’t recommend freezing the entire baked casserole. Instead, freeze the shells without sauce, right before baking:

  • Fill all the boiled shells with the cheese and sausage mixture and place on a large sheet pan. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and then foil and allow to freeze completely. Once frozen, transfer the shells to large freezer bags. Remove any air and return to the freezer. You can freeze these stuffed shells for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to eat: Add 1 cup marinara to a baking dish. Place the frozen shells on top and cover with the remaining marinara sauce. Bake at 400 degrees F (uncovered). Check that the shells are hot and cooked through at about 30-35 minutes and add additional time as needed. Add the cheese on top and bake for 5-10 minutes to melt.

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Stuffed Shells with Sausage

5 from 4 votes
These delicious, extra cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner fast and easy to make. 
Print Recipe

Stuffed Shells with Sausage

5 from 4 votes
These delicious, extra cheesy, Stuffed Shells with Sausage use a few shortcuts to make this dinner fast and easy to make. 
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Sausage Stuffed Shells, Stuffed Shells with Sausage
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 adult servings
Calories 659kcal
Author Chelsea

Ingredients

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup (140g) yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound (204g) extra-lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound (227g) ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 jar (24 ounces; 680g) marinara sauce (We love Rao's or Classico's Tomato Basil)
  • 1 container (7.5 ounces, 212g) chive and green onion cream cheese (soft, spreadable)
  • 1 bag (2 cups, 218g) shredded Italian cheese blend, separated
  • 1/2 cup (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • Optional: fresh parsley, fresh basil

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Spray a 9x13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 1 cup (245g) of the pasta sauce on the bottom of the pan and set aside.
  • SHELLS: Salt the water once it's boiling (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to every 4 cups of water). Cook the jumbo pasta shells according to package directions for al dente, boiling for 1 minute less than the package says. I recommend boiling a few extra in case some break. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
  • MEAT MIXTURE: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add in the onion and stir for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add in the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Move veggies to the side of the pan and add in the ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste (I add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Stir and break up the meat. Cook until browned and then remove from the heat (drain any grease if needed) and set aside.
  • CHEESE MIXTURE: In a large bowl, mix cream cheese spread, 1 and 1/2 cups of the Italian cheese, the Parmesan and egg. Mix until combined. Add in the cooked beef/sausage mixture and stir to combine. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each shell. (See Note 1.)
  • BAKE: Place the stuffed shells on the sauce in prepared pan and then pour the remaining sauce over top, covering the shells completely. Bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Italian cheese and cook for 10 more minutes.
  • ENJOY: Remove and top with fresh parsley and basil if desired. 

Recipe Notes

Note 1: To stuff the shells easily, add the cheese and sausage mixture to a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag. Press the cheese mixture to one side of the bag and using scissors, cut off a 1-inch opening in the corner. Squeeze the cheese mixture into each shell and gently press the mixture down to fill the shells.
Make ahead: These stuffed shells with sausage can be made up to a day in advance and then baked when you're ready. If you make this recipe ahead of time, prepare them fully but do not bake them. Once ready to bake, bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil; then uncover the shells and finish baking according to the recipe directions.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 659kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 931mg | Potassium: 603mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 345IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 397mg | Iron: 4mg

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Recipe Rating




16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Chelsea, I made it tonight and it was delish. Everyone licked their plates including a 2.5 year old.

    Followed the recipe to a tee, it worked out really well to my surprise. The 24 shells is perfect for the amount of filling, the pan size was perfect for the number of shells, and the heaping tablespoon for the measurement worked out exactly so thank you for this well thought out recipe.

    To anyone reading, this recipe made enough for 4 adults and 2 kids. Myself, my wife and our toddler at exactly half. If you don’t want leftovers, consider cutting the recipe in half (although you may want leftovers since it was really good!

    Having made it myself, my only suggestion to others trying it would be to add another half a bottle of sauce if you like your pasta saucy (or mix the bottle with another half bottle of water) to help fill the pan and to have some extra on the plate for dipping each bite into.

    Any thoughts on how to make this the long way? I appreciate the shortcuts but I’m a sucker for punishment and I prefer to use unprocessed foods where possible. Looking for the original ingredients that would take the place of the bottled pasta sauce, chive and green onion spreadable cream cheese, and the shredded Italian cheese blend. I’m sure with a little experimentation it wouldn’t be too hard to get close but wondering if you have a master ingredient list prior to the substitutions.

    The pasta shells didn’t have any cooking info on the box so I cooked them to al dente and it seemed to work fine. Cooking them all the way would result in shells splitting or falling apart as mine were starting to.

    Thanks so much for the delicious meal!

    -Andrew

    1. Hey Andrew!

      Thanks so much for your comment and writing in about this recipe (and including so many details for readers; thanks!) I’m thrilled you enjoyed it! 🙂

      I do have a stuffed shells recipe that’s more from scratch (https://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/stuffed-shells/) but it doesn’t have the sausage. For this recipe I’d think you could make your own cream cheese by adding in diced green onions and some fresh minced garlic. You can also make your own marinara and use freshly grated mozzarella instead of the cheese blend. It will be a bit different, but I’m sure still delicious!

      Thanks again for your comment and trying the recipe!

  2. About to try this recipe but i will use ricotta and cream cheese ..with added herbs and spices… Will add photo if I can figure out how????
    Update soon…
    Thanks…

  3. 5 stars
    I went online looking for a stuffed shells recipe with meat in the shells as I tried an “all cheese” version and just didn’t like it. Yours fit the bill. I am a pretty good cook, so I tweaked your recipe some based on some ingredients I already had. I did not use any ground beef, but only Italian sausage. I had some cottage cheese that needed to be used, so mixed it with the cream cheese mixture. I also did not add the egg. When I had more shells than filling, I mixed up some cottage cheese, mozzarella, and parmesan and filled the rest to give to a neighbor. Absolutely delicious.

  4. 5 stars
    MAde these for dinner tonight with a side of garlic bread!! All I can say is OMG! Family devoured them!! Saved this recipe, will definitely be making again and again!! Ty

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