This easy meatball and shells casserole is smothered in a creamy beefy cheese sauce, and topped with buttered Ritz crumbs. This is pure comfort food.
Tasty Comfort Casserole
This casserole is feel-good food. That makes it a perfect dinner for a winter’s evening.
You have all the basics here. Tasty beef, filling pasta and a beef-flavored creamy cheese sauce.
This dinner is as easy as can be! So all you have to add is a green salad on the side to complete the meal.
Meatballs: Store Bought Or Your Own
This casserole becomes super easy if you use frozen store-bought meatballs because all you have to do is defrost them. Nothing could be easier!
Same thing applies if you make your own favorite meatball recipe and freeze them. That’s what I do because I haven’t ever found a store-bought variety that I really liked. I give a link to my favorite recipe in the recipe card if you’d like to try mine, but your own favorite recipe is great too!
If using store-bought, I’d recommend a traditional variety of meatballs. Italian flavored wouldn’t be so good in here IMO. But that’s just my personal taste. You may like it and there are no competing herbs in the sauce itself that would not go with typical Italian seasoning.
Yes, that’s right–Velveeta!
It actually tastes great in this beefy sauce, but there’s another reason for it. Did you know it keeps the sauce from separating? It does, so I consider it a miracle ingredient in cheese sauce.
In fact, I always add a bit even when I’m making a sauce with natural cheese. The difference in texture is amazing and you don’t need a lot of it either.
This sauce, however, doesn’t have any natural cheeses in it. Just the Velveeta. But if you want to make the sauce with natural cheese, you can surely try it. It may not turn out right so I’m not saying go ahead and it’ll be the same. I haven’t tested this sauce with natural cheese even combined with the Velveeta. Substituting will be at your own risk, but if you do, I’d be curious to know your results, so let me know.
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- 2 cups medium shells, uncooked
- 1½ - 2 lbs small cooked meatballs (see NOTES)
- 1 cup process cheese (like Velveeta) cubed
- ½ sleeve buttery crackers, crushed (like Ritz)
- 1 tbs butter, melted
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 cups rich beef stock (see NOTES)
- 1 can (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup (I use reduced sodium)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 1½-2 quart baking dish or casserole.
- Cook shells per package instructions.
- To make sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tbs butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour making sure there are no lumps. Cook over medium heat until the flour/butter mixture bubbles.
- Gradually add the beef stock, stirring constantly so mixture remains smooth. Cook, stirring frequently over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Add the cubed process cheese and cook over low heat until cheese is melted; about 4-5 minutes.
- Place the mushroom soup in a large bowl. Gradually stir in the cheese sauce until well blended and smooth.
- Fold in the cooked shells and meatballs. Turn into prepared baking dish.
- Mix the 1 tbs melted butter with the crushed cracker crumbs; toss to coat. Sprinkle over top of casserole.
- Bake for 35-30 minutes or until heated through and crumbs are golden brown.
I use Better Than Bouillon mixed per jar directions as I find it has a great taste. Use whatever you like, but make sure it's a high-quality beef stock as the sauce depends on it's flavor.