Recipes

Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Beef Bolognese

May 26, 2020

All my friends know my favorite food is spaghetti — give me some tomato sauce and pasta, and it’s going to be a good night.

This is the dish I like to make when I’m craving that comforting meat sauce plus a little something special.

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Jumbo shell pasta is a really fun shape, but I really don’t like to bake them. I may be in the minority, but the only baked pastas I like are lasagnas and mac and cheese. Otherwise, I’d rather just eat it from the stovetop. This is because every time I’ve had baked shells, there’s usually parts that end up crusty and dry, overbaked, mushy, or there’s just so much cheese in each shell. (May be biased with that last reason since I just really love tomato sauce!)

Here’s my take on stovetop beef bolognese with ricotta stuffed shells! This sauce over any pasta, stuffed or unstuffed, is amazing. Don’t let the long cook time turn you away — most of it is really an occasional stir to make sure nothing is burning and not intensive cooking time. Plus, it’ll make your house smell amaaaazing.

I enjoy using a dry red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, for beef-based sauces or stews. If you don’t have any on hand, a dry white wine would work great as well.

Tips & Tricks

Cooking the bolognese for 2+ hours allows the components to become super tender and rich tasting. To help with the texture, I like to dice the carrots and onions relatively small. The goal is to have the carrots melt in your mouth.

When rolling up the jumbo shells, wait until they are cool enough to the touch that you don’t burn your fingers. I scoop ~1 tbsp into each shell and then roll them back up so they stay closed when you mix them into the sauce. No need to stuff any broken shells.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Beef Bolognese

 


Tiffany AngelaAuthorTiffany AngelaCategoryItalianDifficultyBeginner


Everything tastes better stuffed with cheese! But really though, the best beef bolognese sauce with ricotta stuffed shells. No baking, no fussing!

Yields6 Servings
Prep Time10 minsCook Time2 hrs 50 minsTotal Time3 hrs


Ingredients
 12 oz (1 box) jumbo shells pasta
 15 oz (1 container) ricotta
 1 lb ground beef
 1 tbsp olive oil
 1 medium onion, small diced
 1 large carrot, small diced
 6 garlic cloves, minced
 ½ cup milk (whole or 2% preferred)
 ½ cup dry red wine (can substitute a dry white wine if necessary)
 6 oz (1 can) tomato paste
 28 oz (1 large can) diced tomatoes
 1 bay leaf
 ½ tsp dried thyme
 ½ tsp dried oregano
 ½ tsp crushed red pepper
 1 tsp white granulated sugar
 1 tsp salt
 salt & pepper to taste
 fresh basil (for garnish)

Directions
1

In a large dutch oven or pot (5.5 qt or larger capacity), heat up the olive oil on low-medium heat. Brown the ground beef while breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add a large pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper to season the meat.

2

Once beef is mostly browned (~5 minutes), add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stir and cook on medium heat until onion is mostly translucent (~5 minutes).

3

Stir in the milk and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Adjust heat lower as needed so that the milk doesn't burn.

4

Then, stir in the dry red wine and simmer for ~2-3 minutes. Next, add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Stir and bring pot to a simmer.

5

Once sauce is brought to a low boil, turn down the heat so that it's slowly bubbling/simmering (not a rolling boil!!). Leave partially or half-covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. We want the sauce to be thick! If sauce is sticking too much or drying out too earlyh, cook with the lid covered or add 1/4 cup of water to loosen up mixture — however, keep in mind that the sauce at the end should not be watery. Salt to taste as you are cooking the sauce. I usually do a taste test each time I go to stir since the flavor will deepen and develop as it cooks.

6

About ~15 minutes before serving, gently cook the jumbo pasta shells. Be careful not to break the shells when adding into the water or when stirring! Drain pasta shells after cooking for 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions (we want al dente shells).

7

After shells have cooled down a little and are cool enough to be manipulated by hand, spoon ~1 tbsp of ricotta into each shell and then roll them back up. We want the ricotta secure inside and no longer showing, so adjust the amount accordingly! No need to fill the broken shells that can't be rolled up.

8

Once shells are filled, add all the pasta (even the unfilled, broken ones) into the sauce and stir gently. We don't want the cheese to leak out so stir slowly and fold the sauce over the shells until it is evenly distributed. Let the shells heat back up in the sauce for ~2-3 minutes to make sure the cheese inside is warmed through. Carefully stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.

9

Serve with the extra ricotta (if any) and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper and basil.

Ingredients

Ingredients
 12 oz (1 box) jumbo shells pasta
 15 oz (1 container) ricotta
 1 lb ground beef
 1 tbsp olive oil
 1 medium onion, small diced
 1 large carrot, small diced
 6 garlic cloves, minced
 ½ cup milk (whole or 2% preferred)
 ½ cup dry red wine (can substitute a dry white wine if necessary)
 6 oz (1 can) tomato paste
 28 oz (1 large can) diced tomatoes
 1 bay leaf
 ½ tsp dried thyme
 ½ tsp dried oregano
 ½ tsp crushed red pepper
 1 tsp white granulated sugar
 1 tsp salt
 salt & pepper to taste
 fresh basil (for garnish)

Directions

Directions
1

In a large dutch oven or pot (5.5 qt or larger capacity), heat up the olive oil on low-medium heat. Brown the ground beef while breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add a large pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper to season the meat.

2

Once beef is mostly browned (~5 minutes), add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stir and cook on medium heat until onion is mostly translucent (~5 minutes).

3

Stir in the milk and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Adjust heat lower as needed so that the milk doesn't burn.

4

Then, stir in the dry red wine and simmer for ~2-3 minutes. Next, add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Stir and bring pot to a simmer.

5

Once sauce is brought to a low boil, turn down the heat so that it's slowly bubbling/simmering (not a rolling boil!!). Leave partially or half-covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. We want the sauce to be thick! If sauce is sticking too much or drying out too earlyh, cook with the lid covered or add 1/4 cup of water to loosen up mixture — however, keep in mind that the sauce at the end should not be watery. Salt to taste as you are cooking the sauce. I usually do a taste test each time I go to stir since the flavor will deepen and develop as it cooks.

6

About ~15 minutes before serving, gently cook the jumbo pasta shells. Be careful not to break the shells when adding into the water or when stirring! Drain pasta shells after cooking for 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions (we want al dente shells).

7

After shells have cooled down a little and are cool enough to be manipulated by hand, spoon ~1 tbsp of ricotta into each shell and then roll them back up. We want the ricotta secure inside and no longer showing, so adjust the amount accordingly! No need to fill the broken shells that can't be rolled up.

8

Once shells are filled, add all the pasta (even the unfilled, broken ones) into the sauce and stir gently. We don't want the cheese to leak out so stir slowly and fold the sauce over the shells until it is evenly distributed. Let the shells heat back up in the sauce for ~2-3 minutes to make sure the cheese inside is warmed through. Carefully stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.

9

Serve with the extra ricotta (if any) and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper and basil.

Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Beef Bolognese

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