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Shells and Cheese

Review Recipe
overhead shot of Shells and Cheese on a plate
Made with real cheese, this creamy shells and cheese recipe is the perfect alternative to store-bought mac and cheese.
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Table of Contents
  1. Shells and Cheese Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Shells and Cheese Recipe
  3. How To Serve
  4. Storage
  5. More Recipes You’ll Love
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

These creamy shells and cheese are a delicious homemade alternative to everyone’s favorite boxed mac and cheese. The perfectly cooked shells are smothered with gooey, melted cheesy goodness that will make your taste buds tingle with delight.

a close up shot of Shells and Cheese on a plate

Shells and Cheese Ingredients

Shells and Cheese raw ingredients that are labeled

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound box of small shells pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups half & half
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Lowry’s brand)
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces of original Velveeta cheese, small cubed
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar-mozzarella blend cheese, shredded (I used Kraft brand)

PRO TIP:

The brand of pasta I used had three different sizes of shells. I used the size in this recipe that is most comparable to the boxed shells and cheese you find at the grocery store. I will sometimes use the mini shells when making this dish for little kids as they are easier for them to eat. 

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

CHEESE: If you can not find a cheddar-mozzarella cheese blend as an 8-ounce block, then you can certainly use 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese along with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Some other great cheese substitutes would be 8-ounce Colby-jack cheese, cheddar-jack cheese, or all sharp cheddar cheese.

MILK: You can substitute whole milk for the half & half in this Velveeta shells recipe, but your sauce will be slightly thinner. I do not recommend low-fat or non-fat milk for this recipe as it will make your sauce too thin, and the sauce will not cling to the pasta as well.

How to Make This Shells and Cheese Recipe

STEP ONE: In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, boil the small shell pasta for 10-12 minutes until al dente or according to the package directions. Drain the cooked pasta shells and return them to the pot. Set aside.

OUR RECIPE DEVELOPER SAYS

To test your pasta for al dente, take a bite of the pasta a minute or two before the package instructions indicate it should be done. When you bite into it, and your teeth feel some resistance, but the pasta is still tender, your pasta is al dente.

STEP TWO: Melt the unsalted butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat-low heat. Whisk the all-purpose flour into the melted butter until smooth and becomes a very light golden brown roux.

STEP THREE: Slowly whisk the half & half into the roux until no lumps remain.

half and half and Roux whisked in a bowl

STEP FOUR: Add the seasoned salt, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and the small cubes of Velveeta cheese to the hot half & half mixture and whisk until all the Velveeta cheese is melted and the sauce thickens up. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

salt, mustard, salt, pepper, and velveeta cheese added to the half and half mixture in a pan

STEP FIVE: Add the shredded cheddar-mozzarella cheese blend to the warm cheese sauce, ½ cup at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition.

cheddar mozzarella cheese blend added to the cheese sauce and whisked together in a bowl

STEP SIX: Pour the warm cheese sauce over the cooked and drained pasta shells. Stir to evenly coat all the pasta shells with the cheese sauce.

PRO TIP:

This shells and cheese pasta dish should be served immediately. You can keep the dish warm over very low heat for up to 30 minutes on the stovetop. If you find that your sauce is getting too thick as it sits, you can stir in a splash or two of warm milk to loosen up the thickened sauce. This creamy sauce will thicken as it cools.

cheese sauce poured over the pasta shells

How To Serve

This cheesy pasta makes an easy meal when you need a quick lunch or dinner on a busy day. Add a side dish, such as a simple Caesar salad or simple sauteed vegetables, and a loaf of our crusty Dutch oven bread.

Looking for more quick and easy ways to whip up a hearty pasta dish? Our taco pasta and creamy garlic pasta are two more family favorites.

Storage

IN THE FRIDGE: You can store leftover cheesy pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

IN THE FREEZER: We don’t recommend freezing this pasta dish as the texture of the creamy sauce will change once thawed.

overhead shot of Shells and Cheese in a bowl

It’s cheesy, creamy, and oh-so-satisfying, and it’s the perfect meal to enjoy on a cold winter night. With two types of cheese and plenty of flavor, this shells and cheese recipe is pure comfort food and sure to be a huge hit.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What kind of pasta is best for this creamy mac and cheese dinner recipe?

Any very small pasta shapes would work best for this recipe, although it is entirely up to you which pasta you’d like to use.

Can I freeze leftovers of this shell mac and cheese pasta?

We don’t recommend freezing these mac and cheese shells as we find the texture of the creamy sauce does not thaw very well.

Does this Velveeta shells and cheese recipe need to be baked?

This stovetop mac and cheese recipe doesn’t need to be baked before serving. It’s meant to go right from the stovetop to the table!

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overhead shot of Shells and Cheese on a plate

Shells and Cheese

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Made with real cheese, this creamy shells and cheese recipe is the perfect alternative to store-bought mac and cheese.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound small shells pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • cups half & half
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, I used Lowry’s brand
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces original Velveeta cheese, small cubed
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar-mozzarella blend cheese, shredded (I used Kraft brand)

Instructions
 

  • In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, boil the small shell pasta for 10 to 12 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain the cooked pasta shells and return them to the pot. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan on medium heat-low heat, melt the unsalted butter. To the melted butter, whisk in the all-purpose flour until smooth and becomes a very light golden brown roux.
  • Slowly whisk the half & half into the roux until no lumps remain.
  • Add the seasoned salt, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and the small cubes of Velveeta cheese to the hot half & half mixture and whisk until all the Velveeta cheese is melted and the sauce thickens up. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the shredded cheddar-mozzarella cheese blend to the warm cheese sauce, ½ cup at a time, whisking until smooth between each addition.
  • Pour the warm cheese sauce over the cooked and drained pasta shells. Stir to evenly coat all the pasta shells with the cheese sauce.

Notes

  • The brand of pasta I used had three different sizes of shells. I used the size in this recipe that is most comparable to the boxed shells and cheese you find at the grocery store. I will sometimes use the mini shells when making this dish for little kids as they are easier for them to eat.
  • To test your pasta for al dente, take a bite of the pasta a minute or two before the package instructions indicate it should be done. When you bite into it, and your teeth feel some resistance, but the pasta is still tender, your pasta is al dente.
  • This shells and cheese pasta dish should be served immediately. You can keep the dish warm over very low heat for up to 30 minutes on the stovetop. If you find that your sauce is getting too thick as it sits, you can stir in a splash or two of warm milk to loosen up the thickened sauce. This creamy sauce will thicken as it cools.

Nutrition

Calories: 477kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 1038mg | Potassium: 353mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 770IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 479mg | Iron: 1mg
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