After I posted about the creamy chicken shells, my mom kindly brought it to my attention that for someone who thinks lasagne is too time-consuming to make, I sure do make a lot of other rather time-consuming recipes. The stuffed shells in particular. I will admit it: the real reason I don’t make lasagne is that my mom makes it so amazingly well that I don’t really have a need to make it. And my little sister does too. So really, why would I bother spending my time on that when I could be making something else? However, to show that I do make recipes that are not, in fact, overly time consuming, I will share this one.
On Tuesdays, I usually make a casserole or some other meal that takes a while to bake or cook. It’s one of the few nights in a week that we have nothing on, so I have time to spend in the kitchen. While searching casserole recipes on the internet, I stumbled on this one and it looked like an easy alternative to my stuffed shells.
I will warn you: this is amazing and really hard to resist. So you should probably invite people over when you plan to make it so you don’t eat too much. And if you do manage to leave some for later, do not bring the leftovers to work, as one of your colleagues may just try to eat them (which almost happened to me!). The shells are just so creamy and fragrant (mostly due to the basil) that you should definitely make them as soon as you can.
Make-ahead Creamy Shells
I left out the best part! You can easily make them a day ahead, leave them in the fridge, and then pop it in the oven before your guests arrive (or before your family starts complaining of hunger).
What you need:
5 cups large shells, uncooked
1 lb ground beef
1 jar (approximately 20 oz or 645mL) pasta sauce
6 oz (or 3/4 package) of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
What to do:
Cook the pasta according to the package directions to al dente. Drain.
While the pasta cooks, brown the ground beef in a skillet. Stir in the pasta sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Use the pasta pot on very low heat. Put in the cream cheese to help it soften. Then remove from heat and whisk in the milk, parmesan cheese and basil. Pour the drained pasta back into the pot and stir until the noodles are coated.
Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish. Pour all the noodles in and top with the rest of the meat sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Cover the whole dish with foil.
Refrigerate up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to bake it, pre-heat the oven to 375F. Bake the casserole, covered for 30 minutes. Pull it out of the oven, take off the foil, and place it back in for another 10-15 minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes before you dig in.