I was a Hamburger Helper and Rice-a-Roni kind of kid – I mean, IYKYK. Or even if you don’t, this dish will make up for all the years lost when you were deprived of the ultimate meaty, creamy casserole. This version elevates things a bit with chives and lots of black pepper for freshness and depth, plus chopped tomatoes instead of crushed because I like chunky ones. It’s like a big hug in a bowl.
Technical tip: Be sure to use a skillet large enough to spread the meat in an even layer so you can get a nice sear on the meat. If it’s too crowded, it never gets those nice crispy bits.
Possibility of exchange: Any ground protein would work here! As would most cheeses that can easily melt.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add beef and cook, breaking into small pieces, until cooked through and no pink remains, about 8 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of paprika and 1 teaspoon of oregano, then season generously with salt and pepper. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl.
Add the onion to the skillet and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the remaining oregano and paprika and season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to coat, cook until flour becomes nice and toasty, about 30 seconds. Slowly add the beef broth, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes and pasta shells and stir to combine.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet with lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size and shape of pasta.
Uncover, increase heat to medium, then stir in cream and cheeses until melted and combined. Bring to a boil and let reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.
Return the ground beef to the pasta and continue to cook until the beef is just hot, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowls and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.