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Stuffed Shells with Eggplant Tomato Sauce

These Stuffed Shells with Eggplant Tomato Sauce aren’t just good – they’re the winner of our #ILoveSanMarzanoDOP tomato recipe contest.

stuffed shells

Stuffed shells with eggplant tomato sauce

This recipe comes from Julie S., an accomplished home cook from Seattle, Washington. She starts by making a luscious tomato sauce with eggplant, capers, and olives. The sauce then brings a salty, tangy kick to the shells stuffed with a creamy ricotta filling.

And of course the base of the sauce is our favorite canned tomatoes – the famous San Marzano or Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP tomatoes from Italy.

These exclusive red “peeled tomatoes” have an elongated cylindrical shape.  Italian farmers grow them specifically for the can in the volcanic-rich Italian countryside of Agro Sarnese-Nocerino. They then pick them at the height of their ripeness and peak of flavor and texture.

San Marzano DOP tomatoes

San Marzano DOP tomatoes are behind every great tomato recipe, including these Stuffed Shells with Eggplant Tomato Sauce.

Stuffed Shells with Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Let’s check out the recipe:

Stuffed Shells with Eggplant Tomato Sauce

The winner of the #ILoveSanMarzanoDOP recipe contest by Julie S. of Seattle, Wash.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword eggplant, pasta, San Marzano DOP tomatoes, stuffed shells
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 6


For the Sauce

  • 3 small eggplants, chopped into 1-inch dice (or one large eggplant, equaling about 1 pound)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped and pitted black and green olives
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano DOP tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Shells

  • 3/4 pound large pasta shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 tsp dried (or fresh) oregano
  • 1 tsp dried (or fresh) basil
  • salt and pepper to taste


For the Sauce

  1. Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt on peeled, cubed eggplant and let sit for 15 min in sieve or on paper towels. Rinse the eggplant and pat dry.

  2. Sauté eggplant in olive oil until soft, 5-10 min. Remove eggplant from pan. Sauté onion and bell pepper in the same pan until soft, in remaining oil, or add more oil as needed.

  3. Add olives, capers, tomatoes (mash them to break up the whole tomatoes), vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper, and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add reserved eggplant and stir. Heat and simmer for 20-30 mins. until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the Shells

  1. Fill a large pot with water, bring the water to a boil, and boil the pasta shells for 9 minutes or according to package directions so that they are soft and pliable but not soggy.

  2. Mix remaining ingredients for the filling. Stuff the cooked shells with 1-2 tbsp. filling each.

  3. Pour approximately half of the tomato sauce into an 8" x 11" baking dish. Arranged stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Pour remaining sauce over the shells. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min or until bubbling.


Stuffed Shells Recipe Notes

What’s great about this dish (besides taste) is that the sauce comes together so quickly. You could easily be tempted to use it on just plain pasta or with polenta or crusty bread.

But then you stuff the shells and they’re so cute you can’t wait to garnish them with this pretty sauce.

A few recipe secrets: When we made this recipe we happened to have lots of chopped fresh kale on hand, so we used that instead of frozen spinach (and it was still delicious!). Also, we forgot to put the egg into the filling (and it was still delicious!). Luckily, this is the kind of recipe that is extremely forgiving for even the most rushed cook.

The best part is when you put it on the table and you get a chorus of “ooohs” and “aaaahs.” The eggplant, peppers, olives, and capers in the sauce look almost jewel-like on top of the shells.

For this recipe, Julie receives a basket of Italian tomatoes and other European delicacies. She will also be able to give a basket to a first responder or person in need of her choice.

Blogger disclosure: We ran this contest courtesy of the Consorzio di Tutela del Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP and ANICAV. We did not receive compensation for this post. This post contains links to our Amazon affiliate account. If you make purchases from Amazon through our links, we earn a small commission to support Jolly Tomato, at no cost to you.

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