I found myself staring at one of my last jars of homemade marinara, wondering what I should make. Then I remembered a baked pasta dish I made years ago in Chicago. I would come back from the farmer’s market with fresh basil, make some pesto, and think of all the ways to eat it. One of the ways I used it was in Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells in Marinara Sauce.
This baked pasta dish is so simple, so fresh tasting and light enough to welcome in Spring. Last fall, I made and canned a couple batches of marinara with tomatoes from the local farm. I so loved opening one of my last jars to make this, but, no worries, jarred marinara sauce works just fine.
And you know what else works just fine? Store bought pesto. Really, it does, and there are some good ones out there. I like Costco’s Kirkland brand Basil Pesto (the best I’ve had and the closest to homemade, in my opinion).
Boil up some large pasta shells, let them cool a bit and then stuff them with creamy ricotta, pesto and some grated Italian cheeses. I use a blend but you could certainly just use some mozzarella and parmesan. This recipe is pretty flexible and forgiving, which is nice when you want to maybe use what you have on hand or change up the cheese mixture a bit.
Next time you’re wondering what to make for dinner, try Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells in Marinara Sauce ~ creamy, comforting, fresh and light, even Meathead likes it. You might also like my baked Penne with Prosciutto and Parmesan Cream, it’s a favorite in our house.
Pesto Cheese Stuffed Shells in Marinara Sauce
- 1 (12-oz) box large pasta shells
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1¼ cup shredded Italian blend cheese (another ¼ cup for topping)
- ½ cup prepared basil pesto
- couple grinds of fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or jarred
- Preheat oven to 375º
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta shells 2 minutes shy of package instructions. Drain. Drizzle large sheet pan with olive oil and toss hot pasta shells on pan. Separate and let cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix ricotta, egg, pepper, shredded cheese and pesto until well combined. Spread a few tablespoons of marinara sauce evenly over bottom of 9" X 13" baking dish. Stuff each pasta shell with heaping tablespoon of mixture and place in baking dish (22 - 24 stuffed shells). Sprinkle top with more shredded cheese.
- Pour remaining marinara sauce over stuffed shells and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, bake for 10 - 15 more minutes, until bubbling and cheese is melted.
- I cooked the whole box of noodles although only used about 24 cooked shells for the dish.
- Store bought pesto is fine, that's what I used. By all means, use homemade if you prefer.
- Homemade marinara is what I prefer, but your favorite jarred marinara or pasta sauce will work just as well!