While I really love stuffed shells ( see recipe ) sometimes I just don’t feel like futzing with stuffing those big shells. This was delicious and had all the flavor of the stuffed shells I usually make without all the work. This is a great family meal and made as is should serve 6-8 depending on your eaters and what else you serve with it. No hassle and delicious and of course you can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken , I like ground beef and use the 85/15 version because I like a little fat in the sauce but lean ground beef is fine. Turkey can be very dry so try and get dark meat or at least 85/15 .
Prep Time was about 1/2 hour all in and cooking time another 45 minutes app. Serve with a nice green salad and you’re good to go.
You can prepare the dish, according to the directions, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bake the following day according to the directions. I don’t add mozzarella on top till I am baking.
Leftovers can be left up to 3 days in the refrigerator and I promise they’ll be gone by then.
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion — diced small
1 pound ground beef — use whatever you’d like see note above
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 24 oz. jar marinara sauce — or homemade sauce if you have it on hand I personally love Raos Arrabiata which has a slight kick or you can use just plain Marinara — whatever brand you like and whatever type you like
16 oz. shell pasta , uncooked usually 1 bag or 1 box
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature and that’s important because you’ll need to mix with other ingredients — leave it our for a few hours
1 cup Ricotta — I use part skim just not fat free
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
app.1- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt — for meat sauce and for cheese — divided I added about 1/2 teaspoon to sauce and 1/2 teaspoon to cheese — you can taste both for salt and pepper and add or decrease to your own taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper — a little for sauce and a little for cheese mixture
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
app. 2 cups grated low moisture mozzarella cheese — part skim is fine just not fat free
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees if you’re baking now. Spray 9×13 Baking Dish with non stick spray. Set aside
Meat Sauce Assembly:
Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes till soft and translucent. Add in the meat and cook till no longer pink, I sprinkled some kosher salt and black pepper here as well. Just a little because you’ll add more to the cheese. Taste sauce for Salt and Pepper when finished. Add in the minced garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan and place back onto the heat. Add in the marinara sauce and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer while you do the next steps.
Prepare Pasta al dente according to the package directions and allow to drain thoroughly
In a large bowl stir together the cream cheese, Ricotta Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, egg, Italian Seasoning, salt , black pepper and crushed red pepper. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and taste for salt here as well. Next add the cooked cooled drained pasta to the bowl and stir until evenly combined. If pasta is too hot when you add it the cheese will start to melt so let pasta just be cooled down enough.
Spread half of the meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with pasta mixture and then spread on the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the top of the dish and bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes till cheese is slightly browned and casserole is bubbling .
*if not browning quickly you can place under broiler for a quick few minutes but be careful –you wouldn’t want to burn it so keep an eye on it
I was bringing this casserole to someone so made it in an aluminum tin usually a large pyrex is perfect .