Sausage and Eggplant-Stuffed Shells in a Tomato-Basil Cream Sauce

Stuffed Shells

Kara made this for dinner this past weekend and I was blown away.  Usually my kids aren’t picky but they made sure to make an exception with this one.  If you’re kids are picky, save this for your significant other because they’re sure to enjoy it.  Sidenote: the kids thought the large shells would be great for mac-n-cheese.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup ricotta or mascarpone cheese
  • 12 ounce fresh (or frozen) spinach, squeezed dry and chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 (12 ounces) package jumbo pasta shells (about 18 shells)
  • 2 cups Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 4 ounces grated fontina (or packaged Italian cheese blend) cheese


  • In large skillet, heat tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and saute sausage until golden brown. Stir to break up pieces for about six minutes.
  • Add half chopped onion and the eggplant, season with salt and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Cook until vegetables are lightly carmelized and very soft.
  • Add one tablespoon of garlic and cook for one minute.
  • Remove from heat. Transfer to large bowl to cool.
  • When mixture has cooled, stir in the ricotta or mascarpone cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and sugar. Stir until combined.
  • Lightly grease 9×13 casserole. Set aside.
  • Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta shells until al dente for about 10-12 minutes.
  • Drain and rinse shells under cold water. Pat dry.
  • Stuff shells with the sausage eggplant mixture and place in casserole dish
  • In a large saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Saute remaining chopped onions until translucent (about 4 minutes)
  • Add remaining tablespoon of garlic and cook until fragrant.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add heavy cream and cook until sauce is reduced in volume by about a 1/3 (20 minutes).
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Add basil to sauce.
  • Pour sauce over shells and sprinkle with Italian cheese blend and parmesan.
  • Cover casserole dish with aluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil and continue baking until sauce is lightly browned and bubbly (about 15 minutes).
  • Let stand for ten minutes before serving.

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