Baked Shells With Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce and Italian Sausage Recipe

baked shells with roasted red pepper cream sauce and Italian sausage
Creamy, cheesy shells made with Italian sausage, Fontina and Asiago cheeses and roasted red peppers is a must-have as the weather transitions to fall. Jennifer Olvera

A base of roasted red pepper cream sauce swaths pre-cooked, medium-sized pasta shells. The original recipe—from Joy of Cooking: All about Pasta & Noodles—calls for Fontina and pecorino; I kept the former, but swapped in shredded, aged Asiago for the latter. I like the sauce smooth and silky, so I puréed the roasted pepper mixture before preparing the sauce. Then, rather than use full-on heavy cream, I've split the ratio in half, replacing some with half and half to lighten the dish. Italian sausage, garlic, and onions, boost the sauce with extra flavor.

Why this recipe works:

  • The rich sauce features Fontina and aged Asiago cheeses, respectively, for creaminess and nuttiness.
  • Roasted red peppers lend a pretty pink hue and sweetness to the dish.
  • Browned, crumbled Italian sausage offers additional substance to the baked pasta.

Recipe Facts



Active: 30 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 6 servings

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  • 5 medium red peppers

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 1/2 cup puréed, canned tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

  • 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese

  • 1/2 cup finely shredded, aged Asiago cheese, plus additional for garnishing

  • 1 (16-ounce) package medium-size shells, cooked al dente in salted water, drained and rinsed under cold running water

  • Kosher salt

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 500°F (260°C).

  2. Place whole peppers on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven to cook, turning every 10 minutes, until the skins are wrinkled and peppers are charred, about 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and immediately gather up the foil to seal into a pouch around peppers. Let rest for 30 minutes. When peppers are cool enough to handle, cut in half and remove and discard stems and seeds. Removed charred peels and discard. Purée roasted peppers in a blender or food processor until smooth and reserve.

  3. Reduce oven temperature to 450°F (230°C).

  4. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add Italian sausage and brown, breaking into small bits using a spoon. When sausage is nearly done cooking, add onions and garlic and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables start to soften and get translucent, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add tomatoes, heavy cream, half and half, and reserved pepper purée. Raise heat slightly and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Add ricotta, Fontina, Asiago, and cooked pasta. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt.

  6. Transfer pasta to a 9- by 13-inch baking pan or casserole dish with high sides. Dot with butter and place in oven to cook until brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

  7. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving with additional shredded Asiago cheese.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
616 Calories
39g Fat
38g Carbs
30g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 616
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 50%
Saturated Fat 21g 106%
Cholesterol 109mg 36%
Sodium 856mg 37%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 167mg 833%
Calcium 489mg 38%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 512mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)