Macaroni and cheese is an all-time classic. If you want to dispute that, we have a problem. But let's be real, changing up the pasta basically changes up the whole feel of the dish as well. To me, shells and cheese is in a league of its own! This creamy shells and cheese is packed with everything you love about macaroni and cheese, with the perfect pasta shape to hold all the cheesy goodness! The best part, this is a stovetop shells and cheese. No ovens needed!
These creamy shells and cheese follow the standard preparation of macaroni and cheese. Namely, the recipe starts off with a classic béchamel sauce. Béchamel is made with a roux - a mixture of butter and flour - and milk. With the addition of some spices, this sauce is addictive!
- White and yellow cheddar cheese
- Medium-sized shells
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Mustard powder
- All purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Half and half cream [not pictured]
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
Collecting all your ingredients - This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
Boiling a pot of water - Have your pasta water boiling and ready to go, so everything is ready at around the same time.
- Cook the pasta: In a pot of salted, boiling water, boil the shells until al dente. Drain, and set aside. You do not need to keep any pasta water before draining.
- Make the roux: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle in the all purpose flour. Combine together, and let it cook through for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour is a medium-blonde colour.
- Make the sauce: Add the whole milk to the pot, and let it come to a simmer while stirring occasionally. As it heats, it will thicken. Once the milk has come to a thicker sauce consistency, add your spices.
- Add the cheese: In small portions, add the cheese to the sauce. Add a small amount, stir to combine, and repeat until all the cheese is combined. Once the cheese has melted, add the pasta, and combine well.
Use freshly grated cheese! Pre-shredded cheese is a fantastic time saver, and I turn to it for a LOT of things. Shells and cheese is not one of those things! Most pre-shredded cheeses have an anti-caking agent tossed in, which also makes your sauce a little gritty. Grate it fresh, for best results!
Use full fat cheese! I know we are always looking for a good way to lighten up our favourite dishes. Truthfully, low fat or fat free cheese just does not melt the way you want for shells and cheese. Keep this recipe for an indulgence. Remember, balance and moderation is key!
- Shell pasta - Instead of using shell pasta, feel free to use any shape pasta you prefer. I recommend using a tubular pasta, or one with ridges so that it keeps the sauce in the crevices of the pasta. Spaghetti or other long pastas are not ideal.
- Cheeses - The great thing about mac and cheese is that just about any cheese goes. Feel free to get as fancy or as basic as you'd like. If you like the extra creaminess and colour of American cheese, feel free to add it in!
- Whole milk - You can use half and half cream, or heavy cream instead.
- Vegetable-heavy - Add in some sundried tomatoes and spinach to make this a little more nutritious!
- Smokey - Add in some crisped bacon for a smokey, meaty twist!
- Baked - Transfer to a baking dish and top with breadcrumbs and more cheese, for a crunchy baked version!
This is what I used to make this recipe - Please be mindful that different equipment and cooking utensils may yield varying results. Most of my favourite equipment can be found on my storefront.
Because this shells and cheese recipe is so heavy on the creamy, cheesy goodness, it is best enjoyed fresh. You can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days, and can reheat in the oven or in the microwave.
If you find that the sauce has gotten thicker and a little dry, add a little bit of milk before heating it up!
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Creamy Shells and Cheese
- Cook the pasta: In a pot of salted, boiling water, boil the shells until al dente. Drain, and set aside. You do not need to keep any pasta water before draining.1 lb Medium shells pasta
- Make the roux: In a dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle in the all purpose flour. Combine together, and let it cook through for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour is a medium-blonde colour.2 tablespoon Butter, 2 tablespoon All purpose flour
- Make the sauce: Add the whole milk and cream to the pot, and let it come to a simmer while stirring occasionally. As it heats, it will thicken. Once the milk has come to a thicker sauce consistency, add your spices.1 cup Whole milk, 1 cup Half and half cream, ½ teaspoon Garlic powder, ½ teaspoon Onion powder, ½ teaspoon Mustard powder
- Add the cheese: In small portions, add the cheese to the sauce. Add a small amount, stir to combine, and repeat until all the cheese is combined. Once the cheese has melted, add the pasta, and combine well.1 ½ cups Sharp cheddar cheese, ½ cup White cheddar cheese
- Large pot