Our Unstuffed Shells Casserole is everything a pasta casserole should be. Hearty, cheesy, full of saucy, and easy to make. If you are a looking for a quick and easy casserole for those busy weeknight dinners, this is the recipe to bookmark. I think once you make these delicious unstuffed shells for your family, they will be begging you to make it again!
Unstuffed Shells Casserole
I don’t know about your family, but mine absolutely adores pasta. Besides the fact that it’s so versatile, it’s such an easy dish to prepare. You can make it with a variety of different proteins, with different cheeses, sauces, and you can make it hot or cold.
Regardless of what your family’s favorite pasta dish is, there is always a side dish that your family must have to enjoy along side it, right? For mine, it’s some form of bread. That’s why I came up with my 2 Ingredient Dough Breadsticks. These are amazing! They are so simple and out of this world!
FAQ About This Recipe
Pasta is a bit tricky to cook, however, once you learn the proper way, you’ll be all set. The key is to cook your pasta to where it’s just done. You don’t want it under done or over done. You want it al dente. Normally I cook it to just the first part of the time of the box. Like if it says 8 to 10 minutes, I cook it to just 8 minutes. Especially if I’m cooking the pasta for an additional length of time in the oven.
NOT FOR A WARM DISH. NEVER EVER rinse pasta when you are using it for a warm dish. That starch on the pasta is very important for the dish. Only rinse it when you are making a cold pasta dish.
1 tablespoon of salt per every pound of pasta and 4 quarts of water.
You will find a complete list of all of the ingredients that you need as well as the directions on the printable recipe card below.
- Pasta – you can use any type of pasta for this your family loves. For this recipe, I used a box of Salad Shells that I had in my pantry. Any type that you prefer is totally fine.
- Ricotta cheese – this will give the dish the extra creamy flavor. You can also use cream cheese in addition to the ricotta which is what I did because we like ours really creamy. It’s totally up to you. Now if your family isn’t a fan of ricotta, you can omit that and use just the cream cheese.
- Parmesan – this is a case of where the stuff in the green container doesn’t cut it. Make sure to pick up a container of this at your store that is either in the cheese section and is the real stuff. You will thank me for this.
- Egg – this will be your binding ingredient.
- Italian seasoning – the flavors in this seasoning are amazing and really bring a nice flavor to this dish.
- Onion – I cut up a 1/2 of sweet onion. However, if you prefer, you can use 1/2 tsp of onion powder. Totally up to you.
- Garlic – you can NOT have an Italian dish without fresh garlic.
- Kosher salt – do NOT use regular table salt when you are making the dish. You must use regular salt. Save the table salt for adding additional seasoning once the dish has been served.
- Black pepper – fresh ground pepper always adds a nice flavor.
- Hamburger – I used ground beef. However, feel free to substitute ground sausage, ground turkey, or even ham. It’s totally up to you.
- Mozzarella cheese – you know you can never go wrong with more cheese.
- Spaghetti sauce – this can be canned or homemade. Any flavor your family loves is fine.
How to Make Unstuffed Shells Casserole
You will find complete instructions below in the printable recipe card. Below is a brief breakdown of the steps involved.
Step 1: Preheat the oven.
Step 2: Lightly spray the 9 x 13 casserole dish you plan on using with your favorite non-cooking spray.
Step 3: Cook the meat that you will be using in the dish.
Step 4: Boil the water and cook the pasta until it’s al dente.
Step 5: Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
Step 6: Sauté the onion and garlic until it’s translucent.
Step 7: Once the hamburger is ready, add the onion, garlic, and spaghetti sauce and heat thoroughly.
Step 8: Drain the pasta but don’t rinse it.
Step 9: In a large bowl, add a part of the mozzarella cheese, seasonings, egg, Parmesan, ricotta, and cream cheese if desired. Then mix the pasta and the cheese sauce together.
Step 10: In the casserole dish, layer 1/2 of the meat sauce, the add the cheesy pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce then cheese.
Step 11: Cover with foil and bake, remove foil, then bake again.
Step 12: Enjoy.
Easy Unstuffed Shells Casserole
- 16 oz. Pasta shells of your choice
- 15 oz. Ricotta cheese
- 8 oz. Cream cheese optional
- l/4 c. Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 t. Italian seasoning
- 1/2 c onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
- 1 lb. ground beef or other protein you prefer
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese divided
- 2 24 oz spaghetti sauce
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Lightly spray the 9 x 13 casserole dish you are wanting to use with your favorite non-cooking spray.
- Start preparing the meat that you will be using in the dish.
- Boil the water and cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Remember to add salt to your water before you start to boil it. Refer to the time directions on the package of pasta for a general guide for your pasta. If it says it will be done between 8 – 10 minutes, pull at the pasta at 6 minutes since you will be baking it.
- Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
- In a small pan, add a teaspoon of olive oil and once it's heated, sauté the onion and garlic until it’s translucent.
- Once the hamburger or other protein is ready, add the onion, garlic, and spaghetti sauce into the pan and heat thoroughly. Now when it comes to the sauce. My husband likes a lot of sauce so I used almost two full jars. You may only end up using one. This will totally be a case by case basis.
- Drain the pasta but do NOT rinse the pasta.
- In a large bowl, add 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, the seasonings, egg, Parmesan, ricotta, and cream cheese if desired. Then mix the pasta and the cheese sauce together.
- In the casserole dish, layer 1/2 of the meat sauce, the add the cheesy pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce then cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil, then turn on your boiler on low and boil the cheese just until it browns. Then remove from the oven.