This scrumptious Italian Basil Beef and Shells casserole is one of those easy pasta entrees that are suitable for family-style dining or a casual get together with friends. Sea shell shaped pasta is mixed with Italian seasoned ground beef then smothered in a basil pesto cream sauce that's packed with flavor. Assemble this dish in advance and have it ready to bake when you're ready for easy meals and entertaining.
Tips About Choosing Basil Pesto for this Beef and Shells Casserole
Thanks to prepared pesto, the dreamy sauce for this dish just couldn't be any simpler to make. Keep in mind, different brands of basil pesto vary in intensity of flavor as well as sodium content. So, be prepared to adjust the amount when adding the pesto to make the sauce. If your preferred brand has a super strong flavor then adjust the amount according to your personal preference. Add it in small amounts and taste as you go. You can always add more but once you add too much the jig is up, so to speak. If you prefer, you can substitute Italian seasoned diced tomatoes in place of the sun dried tomatoes minus the juice of course so, drain them well. Changing ingredients in recipes always changes the flavor a bit but, sometimes cooking is about improvising, too and using what you have on hand. Rest assured, it will still be very tasty.
Assemble Italian Basil Beef and Shells in Advance
I sometimes assemble this entire dish in advance so it's ready to bake 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. 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.
Other Pasta Dishes to Add to the Menu
Looking to up your pasta game this week? Other pasta recipes you might like to try for dinner are these Creamy Garlic Shells, easy peasy Unstuffed Shells Casserole and my Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Shells. that are packed with flavor.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Italian Basil Beef And Shells
- 1 16 oz box medium-size shells
- 1 medium onion diced
- Olive oil
- 1 ½ lb lean ground beef
- 2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- 1 ½ tsp garlic salt
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 8 oz Chive & Onion cream cheese, softened
- 2 ½ cups half & half
- 3 Tbsp butter melted
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 1 6 oz prepared Basil pesto
- ⅓ cup sundried tomatoes rinsed and chopped
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13 x 9 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. (Tip: Using a large pot doubles as the mixing bowl)
- Season the beef with Italian seasoning, garlic salt and red pepper flakes. 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 ½ 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.