Unstuffed Shells Casserole is a delicious take on stuffed shells. This delicious casserole is full of cheese, spaghetti sauce, and great Italian flavor. It’s always a winner!
Do you love stuffed shells but hate the work of actually stuffing them? If that’s you, welcome to the club! Stuffed shells are so good, but it can be so tedious to fill them up. That’s why we came up with this delicious variation.
A New Take on a Classic
This unstuffed shells casserole takes everything we love about the classic stuffed shells recipe and makes it so much easier. Rather than standing around and spooning cheese filling into noodle after noodle, we thought to ourselves, “What if we just don’t stuff them?”
That’s right. This recipe takes all the delicious ingredients of classic stuffed shells and, just like the name says, unstuffs them! It saves so much time to simply cook it all together, and it tastes so good. It’s a wonderful twist on the classic.
A Lasagna-Adjacent Dish
If you take a look at this recipe, you’ll quickly see that unstuffed shells casserole has essentially all the ingredients found in lasagna but made with a different type of noodle.
That makes sense if you think about it because what are stuffed shells if not lasagna made with shell noodles instead of lasagna noodles? After all, the filling for stuffed shells is the same as the ricotta layer you put in lasagna. They both use spaghetti sauce. They both use shredded cheese.
So this unstuffed shells casserole is really just taking everything about lasagna or stuffed shells and sort of mashing it all together. You get all the great taste you love about stuffed shells or lasagna but with a fraction of the work.
Unstuffed Shells Casserole Recipe
This recipe is so easy and so good – a perfect combination in our opinion. All of the ingredients in this recipe are those that are found in any classic lasagna or stuffed shells recipe, so there’s nothing exotic or hard to come by. Putting it together is also ridiculously easy!
It takes 11 ingredients to make this dish, but they’re all common kitchen staples if you cook Italian food at all. Even if you don’t, you’ll find everything you need readily available at your grocery store. There’s nothing fancy here.
- Pasta Shells
- Ricotta Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
- Italian Seasoning
- Onion Powder
- Black Pepper
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Spaghetti Sauce
That’s all there is to it. You can immediately see that every ingredient here is one you’ve used if you’ve made lasagna or stuffed shells before. Well, except maybe for the ham.
Making the Unstuffed Shells Casserole
Making this casserole is just about the easiest thing in the world to do. There’s no layering required like there is with lasagna. There’s no stuffing required like there is with stuffed shells.
Making this recipe is nothing more than mixing and baking. Truly, that’s it. You’ll find the complete recipe details at the end of this post, but here are the highlights.
- Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, and seasonings.
- Fold in ham.
- Add pasta and spaghetti sauce to the cheese mixture.
- Pour into a casserole pan and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cover with foil and bake.
- Take foil off for the last 10 minutes.
That’s all there is to it. You’ll find specifics such as oven temp, baking time, and amounts in the recipe card, but you get the idea here. It’s super simple.
Unstuffed Shell Casserole Variations
One of the great things about any recipe like this, whether it’s our unstuffed shells casserole, stuffed shells, or lasagna is that you can switch things up whenever the recipe is feeling stale.
There are a variety of ways you can change up this recipe to make it your own.
Change the Noodles
While we used the classic shell noodles for our unstuffed shell casserole, you can use any sort of pasta shape you like.
Our one caveat is that spaghetti and other long noodles won’t work well in this recipe, as it will all become one big mass. Some great shells to try include:
- Elbow Macaroni
Change the Meat
You probably immediately noticed that we used ham in our unstuffed shells casserole rather than ground beef. While most people think of ground meat in a recipe like this, ham is a traditional ingredient in Italian pasta, as well.
If you want, you can change up the meat used in the recipe to change the flavor of this casserole easily. Great meat variations include:
- Ground Beef
- Crumbled Crispy Bacon
- Ground Chicken
- Ground Turkey
- Ground Italian Sausage
- Ground Pork
Change the Sauce
Any sauce at all will work well with this recipe. We used a tomato-based, jarred spaghetti sauce to stay true to the red sauce found with stuffed shells, but you could easily go with a creamy sauce or a homemade sauce, as well.
The sky’s the limit with sauces because pretty much every sauce out there goes with meat, noodles, and cheese. Here are some ideas for different sauces.
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Marinara Sauce
- Chunky Jarred Sauce
- Veggie-Filled Jarred Sauce
- Vodka Sauce
- Alfredo Sauce
- Any Red Sauce
- Any White Sauce
Serving Unstuffed Shells Casserole
This unstuffed shells casserole is an entire meal in and of itself. It’s hearty and delicious. It’s also a heavy dish, so you want to serve it on its own. The only side we recommend is a nice salad if you like.
Storing Unstuffed Shells
You can store this unstuffed shells casserole in the refrigerator for about four days in an air-tight container.
For longer storage or for meal prep, you can store this casserole either cooked or uncooked in the freezer for up to three months. It’s perfectly okay to store it in the baking dish.
Just remember to cover the dish tightly and allow it to defrost in the refrigerator. Never try to cook the lasagna from frozen. It won’t cook correctly, and the drastic change in temperature could cause your baking dish to crack.
Try This Unstuffed Shells Casserole Today
This unstuffed shells casserole is ridiculously easy to make, and it’s so, so good. That’s the perfect combination in our opinion. With a recipe this easy and delicious, you owe it to yourself to give it a try, especially if you’re a fan of stuffed shells or lasagna.
This recipe has all the flavors of both classic dishes but with a much easier prep. Your family will love it, and you’ll love how easy it is. Give it a try!
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Unstuffed Shells Casserole is a delicious take on stuffed shells. This delicious casserole is full of cheese, spaghetti sauce, and great Italian flavor. It's always a winner!
- 16 oz. package of shells, cooked to package (minus a minute)
- 15 oz. of ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ teaspoons of Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon of onion powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- 6 slices of ham, chopped
- 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1 24 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce or use your own homemade sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, and seasonings. Fold in chopped ham, and ½ cup of mozzarella cheese.
Add drained pasta to the cheese mixture and the spaghetti sauce, fold to coat completely.
Pour pasta mixture into a well-greased 9×13 casserole pan. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese and add more if desired.
Cover pan with a greased sheet of aluminum foil.
Bake covered for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.