Creamy Cheesy Beef Skillet Pasta

This dish is total comfort food. I made this after a really long, stressful day at work and it is definitely a winner. The beefy tomato sauce and pasta make this a really hearty meal, while cream cheese gives it a nice creamy flavor. Then there is the cheese…. I mean, you can never have too much cheese. I had some nice Gruyere and aged cheddar that I grated and threw in some Monterrey jack, it really made this cheese loving girl happy. What’s even better is that it’s all cooked in one pan….yes even the pasta. Can I talk about the pasta for a minute? I found this Conchiglie pasta at one of my Fresh Market stores.

I had never even heard if this one before, but I thought it would hold up great in a beefy tomato sauce. They look like a cross between shells and elbow pasta.

What’s even better, is that all of that beefy sauce and cheese fill up the center of the pasta, then when you bite into it….it is heaven. This dish is definitely for a cheat day, but it’s worth it.

Here’s what you need:

*1 LB ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 garlic cloves, minced

*olive oil

*14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained

*28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

*2 tsp. dried Basil, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried oregano, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried marjoram, or more to taste

*1 tsp. onion powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. garlic powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp salt, or more to taste

*2/3 cup of chicken stock

*2 1/2 cups Conchiglie pasta or elbow pasta, uncooked

*4 oz. cream cheese

*2/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

*1/2 cup shredded aged Cheddar cheese

*1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Heat a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. When the pan starts getting hot, add the onions and the garlic.

Sauté until the onions just start to get tender, about 2 minutes. If the onions and garlic start to turn brown, reduce the heat to medium. Add the ground beef to the pan and turn the heat back up to medium high heat if you had to lower it.

Break up the beef while stirring the onions and garlic to combine. Cook until the beef is brown, about 5 to 8 minutes stirring frequently; drain if needed.

Add in the diced and crushed tomatoes.

Stir to combine the tomatoes with the onion beef mixture. Next, stir in all of the spices and herbs.

Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes; taste and add any more herbs or spices.

Dump in the pasta and the chicken stock.

Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the pasta is al dente.

Cut the cream cheese into cubes.

Add the cream cheese to the beef and pasta mixture.

Gently stir until the cream cheese starts to melt, then add in the shredded cheeses.

Stir carefully to melt and combine the cheese with the beef pasta mixture. Do not over mix or the pasta will start to break apart.

When the cheese is melted and heated thru, serve with some nice crusty bread.

Shells with a Tomato Vodka Sauce

Fresh tomatoes are so good during the summer aren’t they? I wanted to take advantage and use them in this sauce over some pasta shells that I had in my pantry. I did use one can of diced tomatoes as well paired with some vodka, basil, a hint of heat from some chili flakes, Parmesan and a little bit of cream to give this a slight creaminess. This turned out to be a very nice sauce that makes me think of these remaining days of summer.

Here’s what you need:

*1 small onion

*2 large garlic cloves

*4 Roma tomatoes, or any other tomato you might prefer

*salt to taste + 1/2 tsp for the sauce

*olive oil

*15 oz can diced tomatoes

*1 tsp. dried Basil or 1 TBS fresh, chopped Basil

*1/4 tsp red chili flakes, or more to taste

*2 tsp. dried parsley or 1 1/2 TBS fresh chopped parsley

*1/4 C. Vodka

*1/4 C. Parmesan cheese, grated

*1/2 C. heavy cream

*1 box of shell pasta

Preheat broiler.

Cut tomatoes in half; cut the onion into quarters. Place on a baking sheet along with the whole cloves of garlic; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Broil until the tomatoes and onion starts to brown a bit; take out the garlic cloves if they start to burn.

Place the tomatoes, onions, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes into a blender.

Yes, I did use canned tomatoes also in this sauce because I like the combination of using the fresh and the canned. The freshness and flavor of the garden tomatoes still comes thru.

Pulse the blender until everything is mixed and the vegetables are finely chopped; set aside.

Start cooking the pasta according to the direction of the package.

Heat a large sauce pan on medium high heat. Pour the tomato mixture into the pan.

Add in basil, chili flakes and vodka.

Stir ingredients together and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer while pasta is cooking, at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

and if you feel the need to save some vodka for yourself while cooking, go ahead, cooking can be a celebration after all.

Take pan off of the heat; stir in the heavy cream, Parmesan and parsley.

Drain the pasta and spoon into serving dishes; add desired amount of the tomato vodka sauce on top and serve.