Bacon, jalapeño, cheese and pasta! When combined together, then baked, what's not to like about that delicious combination?
The words cheesy shells just fit perfectly together. Much like building a taco or pizza, casseroles can be filled with a variety of ingredients. For this recipe, I chose some of my favorite ingredients like bacon and jalapeño. By simply adding those two ingredients to any dish, it changes the whole flavor profile. I particularly love using pasta shells for this dish because the shells fill with sauce and cheese when combined. Bonus! When I find myself in need of a dish to pass, my go to dish is typically this cheesy shells casserole. It comes together fairly easy and can be prepped ahead of time. If jalapeño peppers are not your thing, you could switch them out for a mild pepper, such as cubanelle. One of my guilty pleasures is taking some of the leftover cheesy pasta and preparing the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich! Don't forget to add this recipe to the next gameday at your house, Super Bowl Sunday or take it to the next pot luck dinner with friends.
For the Cheesy Shells
4cups medium pasta shells uncooked
4strips thick cut bacon
1small sweet onion diced
2 jalapeño peppers mince one, slice the other and reserve
Cook the pasta according to box directions and set aside. Drizzle in a little oil so the pasta does not stick together
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
To that same pan, add the onion, minced jalapeno and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add in the tomato products, minus the fresh tomato. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
Add in the milk, broth, bouillon, oregano, paprika, mustard and hot sauce. Stir well to combine. In a small bowl, combine the flour and soft butter. Stir until smooth. When milk/broth mixture begins to boil, whisk in the flour/butter mixture, making sure there are no clumps. Taste sauce for salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until it becomes thicker.
Remove from heat, fold in the cheese until melted, then fold in the pasta. Transfer to a baking dish. Garnish with extra cheese, sliced tomatoes, jalapeños, crumbled bacon and sweet peppers. Place under broiler just until cheese melts.
Cook your pasta 1 to 2 minutes less than instructed on package when using in casserole dishes. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven. To build this casserole dish in the crock pot, make sure you use a crock pot liner for easy clean up. Follow instructions as directed heat on low to melt the cheese.