This scrumptious Italian Basil Beef And Shells casserole is one of these easy dishes that are great for family-style weekday dining as well as serving as the main dish when hosting a casual get together with friends. See shell pasta mixed with ground beef then smothered in a basil pesto cream sauce just couldn’t be any simpler to make. Serve with a tossed salad and a big basket of homestyle garlic-herb bread or a loaf of mozzerella cheese garlic bread and it’s a meal filled with Italian comfort.
Different brands of basil pesto sometimes vary in intensity of flavor, so keep this in mind when adding the pesto. If your preferred brand has a strong flavor then add in small amounts and taste. You can always add more up until you assemble the dish. If you don’t have sundried tomatoes on hand, use diced Italian seasoned canned tomatoes in their place making a point to drain them well. It will change the flavor a bit but, it will still be mighty tasty. I sometimes assemble this in advance so it’s ready to go when we’re ready to eat. If making ahead either bring to room temperature before baking or adjust the baking time so it has time to heat thoroughly.
Italian Basil Beef And Shells
- 1 16 oz box medium-size shells
- 1 medium onion diced
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
- 2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 8 oz Chive & Onion cream cheese, softened
- 2 1/2 cups half & half
- 3 Tbsp butter melted
- 4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 1 6 oz prepared Basil pesto
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes rinsed and chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, Set aside.
- Cook the pasta shells in salted water per the package instructions until al dente. Drain well.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat cook the diced onion in a few drizzles of olive oil for 2 minutes until softened. Add the ground beef. (Using a large pot doubles for the mixing bowl)
- Season the beef with Italian seasoning, garlic salt, red pepper flakes and Worcestershire sauce. Continue to cook the beef until no pink remains. Drain all excess fat from the pot.
- To the ground beef add the cream cheese, half & half, and butter. Stir until the cream cheese has completely melted.
- Remove from the heat and add 2 cups shredded cheese, pesto, sundried tomatoes , Parmesan and cooked pasta. Mix well.
- Pour 1/2 of the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese. Top with the remaining pasta and 1 cup shredded cheese.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Check at 30 minutes and cover with foil, if needed.
- Rest on the counter for 5 minutes then garnish with chopped parsley just,before serving.