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Stuffed Shells with Homemade Tomato Sauce – Comfort Food At Its Best #CleanPlate

This is a sponsored post. My opinions, as always, are my own.

Well my friends – Ol’ Man Winter has finally arrived.  With winter, cue the baked pastas, the homey stews and the braised dishes.  Break out the slow cookers, the dutch ovens and bring on the comfort food.  Philly got walloped with a ton of snow and, to quote my buddy Rossi – those weather forecasters were WAY off – an inch or so of “wintery mix” – yeah right.  Let’s look out the window and get the accurate forecast shall we?  I decided it was a hunker down day and decided to play in the kitchen. With the holidays coming up, one tradition we tend to do is whip up a dish that can be baked or simmered away and often for Christmas Eve, it means a baked pasta.  One thing I love to order from time to time is stuffed shells but to make them myself – I tended to rationalize that it was too laborious.  However, the takeout version always seemed to come with a side of grease and sauce that was so-so.  Who wants that?  So, with the snow cascading in front of the windows, I decided that there was no time like the present and this stuffed shell recipe resulted in clean plates all around. This pasta sauce recipe is so full of flavor – easy to make with Contadina crushed tomatoes and their flavorful tomato paste.  If you have any extra tomato paste left over – just pop it in a plastic ziplock bag and keep in the freezer – that way you just use what you need.  No waste – no fuss.  The key to the sauce besides the Italian sausage – the grated onion.  It just melts into the sauce. This recipe does make a lot – I had a few extra shells and leftover filling so I made an extra 8×8 and it’s all ready in the freezer  for a quick weeknight meal.  Give this recipe a whirl and forget about ever ordering stuffed shells from takeout again!

On to the Recipe:

Gather the ingredients

Grated onion melts into the sauce

Adding the crushed tomatoes

Time to simmer the sauce

Making the filling

Shells stuffed and ready for a cheesy sauna

Ready to bake

Now – doesn’t this look like a bite of comfort?


Yields 6-8

Stuffed Shells with Homemade Tomato Sauce

A Comfort Food Classic - cheesy stuffed pasta shells baked in a homemade tomato sauce, perfect for Sunday supper or during the week.

45 minPrep Time

55 minCook Time

1 hr, 40 Total Time

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Recipe Image


    For the Homemade Tomato Sauce:
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 pound of mild Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 28 ounce can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • For the Stuffed Shells:
  • 1 12 ounce package of pasta shells
  • 1 32 ounce container of part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups of grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg


    For the pasta sauce:
  1. Remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a bit of olive oil in the Dutch oven or heavy bottomed large sauce pan over medium high heat.
  2. When the sausage is browned, add the grated onion and sauté for a couple minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic and saute another minute more.
  4. Sprinkle in the Italian seasoning and the red pepper flakes and stir - letting the spices get warm for a moment.
  5. Add a bit of the crushed tomatoes and, using a wooden spoon, deglaze the bottom of the pan a bit.
  6. Add the remaining crushed tomatoes, water and tomato paste.
  7. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let bubble for about 15 minutes or so.
  8. After 15 minutes, add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and simmer again for another 5 minutes.
  9. While the sauce is simmering, prepare the shells.
  10. For the shells:
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  12. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt liberally.
  13. Add the shells to the pot and cook until it's al dente - about 8 minutes or so.
  14. Remove to a clean bowl and let cool.
  15. For the filling:
  16. In a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese, eggs, 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan.
  17. Mix thoroughly and add a touch of nutmeg and the black pepper.
  18. Mix again.
  19. Assembly:
  20. In a large 9x13 baking dish, spread a small amount of the sauce across the bottom of the pan.
  21. Stuff each shell with a bit of the cheese mixture and nestle in the sauce.
  22. When all of the shells are filled and in the baking dish, add the sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  23. Bake for 45 - 55 minutes until brown and bubbly.
  24. Enjoy!


Contadina went into some {not so} famous kitchens to see how they cook. Check out how “Meg Ryan” makes her tomato sauce – it’s definitely going to make you “want what she’s having”.

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