Somewhat Simple

Unstuffed Shells Recipe

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This easy unstuffed shells recipe is creamy and delicious! It has all the saucy flavors of a traditional stuffed shells recipe but without all the extra work!

I love to serve this delicious pasta dinner with a side of Cheesy Bread Sticks, Oven Roasted Vegetables or a Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing.

a plate of unstuffed pasta shells covered in a layer of cheese

An Easy Pasta Shell Recipe

Recently I shared this delicious Taco Stuffed Pasta Shells recipe that my family absolutely loved!  Drawing on a cthis delicious dinner for inspiration, I decided to try something new.  Instead of stuffing large pasta shells, I thought I’d use smaller shells and place all of the other ingredients on top of them.  This way it’s a little easier to make since you don’t have to worry about stuffing each shell.

With a fitting name, these unstuffed shells were a hit with my family! This recipe only takes about 15 minutes to assemble and then you throw it in the oven.  This dinner is also a great freezer meal you can make ahead of time and then just bake it when you’re ready.

How To Make Unstuffed Shells

Prep – While you’re preheating your oven to 350 degrees F, cook your pasta shells according to the package directions.  The only modification is that you’ll want to leave out the salt.  At the same time, you’ll want to brown the ground beef in a large skillet.  Once it has browned, drain the ground beef and then return it to the skillet.

Start Mixing – Stir in the marinara sauce with your ground beef and then let it simmer on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Once the pasta is done, drain it and then return it to the pot.  Add the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, basil and Parmesan cheese to the pasta.  Mix it until everything has combined.

Add The Layers – First, you’ll start by spreading half of the meat sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan.

a casserole dish with a layer of homemade meat sauce on the bottom

Next, add all of pasta and creamy cheese mixture on top of the meat sauce mixture.

a casserole dish filled with pasta shells covered in a blend of melted cheeses

Finally, add the remainder of the meat sauce and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese before placing it in the oven.

a pan of uncooked unstuffed shells topped with grated mozzarella cheese

Cook – Cover the unstuffed pasta shells and then bake it for about 40-45 minutes, or until everything is heated throughout.  After 30 minutes, you’ll want to remove the cover to finish melting the cheese and so it turns a delicious golden-brown color.

a baking pan filled with baked unstuffed shells just out of the oven

Making It A Freezer Meal

Freezing – This unstuffed shells casserole can be made ahead of time and can be frozen too.  Once the dish has been assembled, first wrap this entire dish in plastic wrap and then cover it with foil.  This can stay in the freezer for about 3 months before you should use it.

Reheating – Pull it out on a crazy weeknight and feed your family a delicious dinner with no-fuss!  Just be sure to thaw the pasta shells in the refrigerator overnight before you’re ready to bake it.

More Easy Pasta Recipes

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Un Stuffed Shells
4.5 from 6 votes

Unstuffed Shells Recipe

This easy unstuffed shells recipe is creamy and delicious! It has all the saucy flavors of a traditional stuffed shells recipe but without all the extra work!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Calories 350 kcal


  • 4 cups  medium pasta shells uncooked
  • 1 lb.  extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 jar   24 oz. marinara sauce
  • 1 8 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 8 oz brick of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup  chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups  Shredded Mozzarella Cheese


  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Cook pasta as directed on package, omitting salt.
  2. Brown meat in large skillet; drain.
  3. Stir in marinara sauce; simmer on medium heat 2 min. Remove from heat.
  4. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  5. Add ricotta cheese, cream cheese, basil and Parmesan to the pasta.
  6. Spread half the meat sauce onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; cover with layers of pasta mixture and remaining meat sauce.
  7. Sprinkle with mozzarella; cover with foil.
  8. Bake casserole, covered, 40 to 45 min. or until heated through, uncovering after 30 min.
Nutrition Facts
Unstuffed Shells Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 350
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


looking down on a pan of Unstuffed pasta Shells Casserole

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