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.
Easy Italian Basil Beef and Shells Recipe
This easy recipe utilizes medium size shells for the base. When cooking pasta for a dish like this one, make a point not to overcook it initially or it can become mushy. Cook the shells in salted water per the instructions on the box just until al dente then set aside to cool while you make the sauce. How to make Italian Basil Beef and Shells: (Scroll down for full printable recipe.)
- Pasta – Cook the pasta shells in salted water per the package instructions until al dente. Drain well.
- Beef – In a large pot over medium-high heat cook the diced onion in a few drizzles of olive oil add the ground beef.
- Cook and Season Beef – 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.
- Mix-ins – To the ground beef add the cream cheese, half and half, and butter. Stir until the cream cheese has completely melted.
- Combine – Remove from the heat and add 2 cups shredded cheese, pesto, sundried tomatoes, Parmesan and cooked pasta. Mix well.
- Assemble Filling in Dish – 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 – Bake in a preheated 350°F oven per the recipe until bubbly.
- Let stand for 5 minutes then garnish with chopped parsley just before serving.
How to Make the BEST Italian Basil Beef and Shells Recipe
- Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Italian Basil Beef and Shells: One pound box medium-size shells, onion, olive oil, ground beef, dry Italian seasoning, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, chive and onion cream cheese, half and half, melted butter, shredded mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, sundried tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley.
- Kitchen tools you’ll need: 13 x 9 inch baking dish, measuring cups and spoons, sharp knife and cutting board, large pot, cheese grater and small bowl.
- 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.
- 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.
- You can fully assemble this casserole one day in advance and chill until baking. When doing so, allow 15-20 minutes on the counter to 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 mozzarella cheese garlic bread and it’s a meal filled with Italian comfort.
- You can store Basil Beef and Shells chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in single servings in the microwave.
More Easy Pasta Recipes to Make
Looking to up your pasta game this week? Other pasta recipes you might like to try for dinner:
- These Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Shells. that are packed with flavor.
- This easy Crockpot Pasta Casserole features Italian sausage and plenty of cheese.
- Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta is family approved.
- Kicked up Cowboy Pasta Salad.
- Saucy Baked Penne is a family pleasing meal.
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad doubles as a side dish or an entree.
- Unstuffed Shells Casserole from the Girl Who Ate Everything.
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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 1/2 lb lean ground beef
- 2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 8 oz chive and onion cream cheese, softened
- 2 1/2 cups half and half
- 3 Tbsp butter melted
- 4 cups 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 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 and half and butter. Stir until the cream cheese has completely melted.
- Remove the pot 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.
- Let stand on the counter for 5 minutes then garnish with chopped parsley just,before serving.