Baked Baby Shell Pasta with Pork Ragu

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Baked Baby Shell Pasta with Pork Ragu is a layered baked pasta casserole with sauteed minced vegetables, seasoned pork with fennel in a rich tomato sauce simmered then layered with cheese and baked.

The tomato sauce is rich with meat and simmered slowly for a little over an hour and can be used with any pasta dish without a casserole layering.

Over the years it's been recreated several times and adapted to individual taste and added to baked lasagna, baked ziti, or other baked pasta recipes.

This sauce freezes well and can be used in so many other ways soups, stews, casseroles, and making large batches come in really handy in a pinch.

Our rich tomato sauce will bring a new love to tomato sauce with all it's robust flavors and is a hearty dish when baked together with the ricotta just like a lasagna but easier with loose pasta instead of long noodles.

Of course, if your love Italian tomato sauce you may also like to try our Traditional Sunday Sauce, it's another vintage family recipe.

Scroll down to the easy recipe card to print off and don't forget to read all our tips and suggestions.

baby shells baked in pork ragu sauce

shels casserole with ragu sauce

Ragu Sauce

Pork Ragu sauce is a chunky meat sauce with fennel which makes a rich-tasting tomato sauce seasoning with sauteed onions, garlic, and carrots.

We also love our Homemade Cavatelli pasta recipe with this Ragu or Homemade Gnocci.

Putting some vegetables in with the meat brings the flavor over the top and the sauce gives it a wonderful flavor and is perfect for baked casseroles for an all-in-one pan meal

this is a pan of fresh tomatoes with meat in it called bolognese sauce to go on top of pasta

Other Cooking Methods

  • Slow Cooker: place on low for only 4-6 hours, you will need to saute the meats and vegetables before adding to the sauce
  • Instant Pot: sear the meats with the vegetables first use the slow cooker mode 4-6 hours on low
  • Dutch Oven Method: use a heavy cast iron pot, saute the vegetables and meat in the pot, add the tomatoes bake at 200 degrees for around 3 hours, same instructions
  • Stovetop: follow the original instructions in the recipe card

this is fried loose sausage and ground beef for making a bolognese tomato sauce also has fresh garlic, onions and carrots

Ingredients You Will Need(for exact measurements scroll down to the recipe card)

  1. pasta of your choice
  2. crushed tomato
  3. tomato paste
  4. dry red wine
  5. fresh garlic
  6. salt, pepper
  7. fresh basil
  8. carrots, celery leaves, onion
  9. ground pork, ground beef
  10. mozzarella whole milk
  11. ricotta
  12. Optional Garnish: red pepper flakes and more Parmesano Reggiano cheese, parsley, fresh basil leaves

this is a ragu made with fresh tomatoes and vegetables to make a tomato sauce topping for pasta

Pasta Suggestions

  1. rigatoni
  2. bowties
  3. mostaccioli
  4. fusilli
  5. [penne
  6. spirals
  7. for a nonbaked casserole best to use thick pasta noodles the sauce clings better:
  8. low carb, whole wheat, egg noodles or vegetable pasta like spinach fettuccini 

More Recipes We Love

Chicken Potatoes Pizza Style Casserole
Mac and Cheese Chicken Casserole
Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Tuna Noodle Casserole from Scratch
Eggplant Casserole Recipes

pin for later baby shell casserole

baby shells baked with pork ragu, baked shells lasagna, baby shell pasta casserole
pasta casseroles, ragu recipes, tomato sauce recipes, baked pasta recipes
American, Italian
Yield: 12
Author: Claudia Lamascolo
Baked Baby Shell Pasta with Pork Ragu

Baked Baby Shell Pasta with Pork Ragu

This is a homemade Pork Ragu with baby shells layered like a lasagna
Prep time: 25 MinCook time: 2 HourInactive time: 25 MinTotal time: 2 H & 50 M


  • Pork Ragu
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 minced fresh cloves of garlic
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 - 1/2 pounds of ground pork
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes with juice (28 - ounce size)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste ( 6 -ounces)
  • 1 pound baby shells (salt for the water to boil in)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 - 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups whole milk shredded whole milk mozzarella (more for the top around 1/2 cup)


  1. Using a 5 to 6-quart saucepan warm the oil add the carrots, onions, and celery, and saute for 4 minutes
  2. Add the garlic then saute for 1 or two minutes until golden watching the garlic or onions do not brown just a little golden in color.
  3. Break up the ground pork and add that to the pot with fennel seeds.
  4. Stir in the wine, tomatoes, and paste, and use some salt, and pepper just a sprinkle ( around 1/2 teaspoon of each).
  5. Simmer on low heat for 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. If the sauce begins to get too thick add more wine or some water to thin.
  7. Keep warm while making the pasta:
  8. Boil the pasta in 1 tablespoon of salt water to al denti.
  9. Drain do not rinse.
  10. Oil spray a 13 x 9 casserole pan.
  11. Ladle two spoonfuls of sauce on the bottom.
  12. Add pasta to the 13 x 9 casserole pan.
  13. Layering using evenly over the top:
  14. Half the pasta, sauce, 1/2 the grated cheese, and 1/2 the mozzarella.
  15. Spread ricotta over the top in dollops randomly.
  16. Add the sauce, cheeses, and the rest of the pasta and more sauce on top.
  17. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and a bit more grated cheese.
  18. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese melts ( we also like to broil it a few minutes every one loves the cheese crispy.

Nutrition Facts



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baby shell casserole

shels casserole with ragu sauce


  1. I am from FL. and I would eat this anyday...

  2. Good idea of using baby seashell, it will be tender!

  3. oh god, I used to make these all the time. of course the night of the very first sopranos episode we'd always have baked ziti and a florentine polenta cake for dessert.

  4. I am in FL too. This sounds like my kind of dish! Oh how I love Italian food.

  5. Boy, this sounds fabulous! An easier way to get the delicious flavors of lasagna!!

  6. What a delicious recipe to try for dinner. I love the flavors here.

  7. OMG, this sounds so good! I LOVE ragu, and the flavors here are just superb.

  8. What fabulous flavors in this pasta bake. It's a perfect meal for the whole family.

  9. Great family meal recipe. I prepared it in no time, and family just couldn't get enough. It`s just perfect, thanks!

  10. I've made this ragu several times and it always turns out perfectly! It's a favorite in our house!


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