All the creamy, cheesy glory of stuffed shells – but you don’t have to stuff a thing.
To know a stuffed shell is to love it, because how could you not? A tender vessel of pasta that cups a luscious cheesy filling and is baked into a bubbly sauce… what’s not to like? Well, the actual process of stuffing the shells… that’s what. It’s a pain, no matter how you go about it. But, good news! With our Unstuffed Shells Casserole, you don’t have to go through any of that trouble and you still get the same comforting flavor you want out of the deal. Winner, winner, pasta dinner.
This recipe pairs shells with a ricotta, cream cheese, sour cream, and Parmesan filling and a meaty red sauce and bakes it all together. The nice thing about shells is that whether or not you take the time to stuff them by hand, the filling has a way of finding its way into the pasta and the bigger shells you use, the better that works out. The combination of cream cheese, ricotta, and sour cream might not seem terribly authentic for an Italian-inspired dish (it’s not) but it makes for a flavorful and creamy filling, just trust us.
And of course there’s a cheesy topping! What would a baked pasta dish be without it? In this case, we’ve got melty mozzarella which gets beautifully golden brown in the oven.
This is a situation where jarred marinara works just fine – you don’t need to stand over a stove all day simmering anything. We’ve just bumped up the heartiness with some ground beef, and the sauce goes on the bottom of the dish and also on the top so you get a nice layered effect with the shells and cheesy filling.
Unstuffed Shells Casserole
15m prep time
45m cook time
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 white onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
- 4 cups medium or large pasta shells, uncooked
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil, shopped, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, brown the beef over medium-high heat. Drain fat, if needed.
- Add onion and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds more.
- Add marinara and let simmer 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, ricotta, sour cream, parmesan, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add pasta shells and stir.
- Spread half of the meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange pasta mixture on top, followed by remaining meat sauce.
- Top with mozzarella cheese and cover with a piece of aluminum foil.
- Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until bubbly and golden brown, 10-15 minutes more. Garnish with fresh basil if desired and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything.