Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

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Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is pure comfort food. This easy Instant Pot dinner recipe is so creamy and cheesy. Pasta shells and ground beef are cooked in a tomato sauce and then Parmesan cheese, cream, and cream cheese get mixed in. Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is a little like homemade Hamburger Helper, only much, much better.

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef


To make Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef, first use the saute mode to cook a pound of lean ground beef and a chopped onion. Then add your flavors- dried Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes plus a tablespoon of tomato paste.

Once the ground beef is no longer pink, pour the uncooked pasta shells on top. Pour a jar of spaghetti sauce and 3 cups of water over the shells. Press the shells down into the liquid, but do not stir. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes.

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is like a delicious homemade hamburger helper


The pasta soaks up so much flavor cooking this way rather than just being boiled in water and then mixed into sauce.

After pressure cooking, do a manual release. Stir in 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of heavy cream, and 2 ounces of softened cream cheese.

This Instant Pot recipe is so easy and so delicious. Your family will be fighting over the leftovers.

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef


Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is so cheesy and good!

More Instant Pot Recipes

Watch the video below to see how to make Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

Course: Main Dish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is pure comfort food. This easy Instant Pot dinner recipe is so creamy and cheesy. Pasta shells and ground beef are cooked in a tomato sauce and then Parmesan cheese, cream, and cream cheese get mixed in. 
Print Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (16-ounce) box medium pasta shells, uncooked
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar pasta sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks and softened


  • Add olive oil to the inner pot of an Instant Pot. Turn on "Saute" mode. Add onion and cook until starting to get soft.
  • Add ground beef and cook and crumble it with a wooden spoon until no longer pink. Turn Instant Pot off.
  • Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes and tomato paste and stir.
  • Pour shells on top of ground beef mixture. 
  • Pour pasta sauce and water on top of shells. Do not stir, but press shells down into liquid with the back of a spoon.
  • Place lid on Instant Pot and make sure valve is in "sealing" position. Set to Pressure Cook on HIGH for 5 minutes.
  • Do a manual pressure release and when the pin drops, remove the lid. Stir in Parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and cream cheese. Serve.

Recipe adapted from Meatloaf and Melodrama

Creamy Shells & Beef made in an Instant Pot

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

105 thoughts on “Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

  1. This was excellent. Made exactly as written, except for a slight change, for those who get burn errors, there really is no need to brown the ground beef. I threw it on top of the softened onions and made sure it was scattered about properly. It will cook in 5 minutes under pressure, so there’s no need to deglaze the liner, etc. this is something I’ve noticed lately after cooking fairly steadily in my IP.

  2. Tried this recipe tonight, with a few minor adjustments, and loved it.
    I’m wondering though, if I wanted to cook it at home, and take in to work as kind of a pot luck, how long would the noodles last, before they become way over cooked, if left on keep warm?

    – After browning beef and seasoning according to instructions, do not drain grease unless it is alot. Then add in 1/2 cup water to deglaze and scrape any bits off the bottom of your pot.
    – Add in this order after inital 1/2 cup: your pasta, 3 cups water (this is in addition to the 1/2 you already added to deglaze), spaghetti sauce, then tomato paste. DO NOT STIR IN SPAGHETTI SAUCE OR PASTE. LAYER AS STATED ONLY – THIS IS TO AVOID BURN ERROR. Trust me it will still cook nicely.
    – Pressure cook on high for about 1/2 amount of time stated on pasta box. For example, my box said 11 mins so did 5 mins in instant pot at high pressure.
    – Once done cooking, turn off instant pot and release pressure immediately. Follow the rest of the recipe as stated and season to taste.

    This recipe was highly adaptable to your taste, so feel free to change after you try it. For example, I sauteed 1/2 a small yellow onion and fresh garlic with the meat. I also added more of the seasonings and parmesan to taste. But as always, try it first as directed so you know how to change it next time from there. I was able to at least finally get the cook right after making the above changes and then figured out the taste changes later. Hope this helps!!!

  4. I’ve made this recipe a handful of times since I got my instant pot, I actually think it may have been the first recipe made in it. It’s always turned out perfectly, except tonight. I kept getting a burn warning, I would empty the pot, nothing would be stuck to it. I’d wash it anyways, then load it back up, and try again. I did this 4 times, and just eventually gave up. It’s currently sitting still in the base, letting the pasta finish “cooking”. I refuse to let food go to waste, but I think I’m going to have to not make this recipe again. This last time has been entirely too frustrating, and I don’t want to possibly wreck my instant pot trying to make this again.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Everyone in my family loves it. I substitute sour cream and milk for the cream cheese and cream, just because I always have those on hand, and it tastes the same. Also, pro tip: the pasta sauce can is exactly 3 cups, so pour the sauce in and then use the can to add the water too.

  6. Simply delicious! It is creamy and tasty, with just the right amount of heat/spice, in my opinion. I increased the proportions according to the amount of beef I had, and stuck pretty closely to the given measurements (although I used a bit less Parmesan-actually, I had Romano-since it was pungent and a bit expensive). I think the recipe would be a great one to use again as is, or with which to experiment. I did increase the water a bit and would do so again; I also added the water and deglazed the pot before adding the pasta and sauce, since I’ve struggled with the burn signal many times. It worked like a charm, and the suggested 5 minutes was perfect for regular, white pasta shells. Thanks for an excellent recipe!

  7. This is a wonderfully delicious and easy recipe! I substituted the heavy cream for milk. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly as stated. My whole family enjoyed this meal. Thank you! 😊

  8. Recipe was a good. Made a few changes; increased water by 1 cup, did not use onion, and halved the beef (which turned out to be a terrific idea!) I used a spicy tomato sauce so I didn’t use red pepper flakes. Next time I make this, I’ll be decreasing the time again, I did 4 minutes this time but because it takes a bit longer to pressurize, my noodles were a little more cooked than I like, I will also not use the whipping cream or cream cheese. I think either or could be skipped to save calories and fat. This will be a fun recipe to play around with! 🙂

  9. I just made this recipe tonight and it is delicious! My husband was like, “Oh my gosh this is so good! This is going in my lunch tomorrow!” I didn’t have tomato paste so I used condensed tomato soup. I also don’t use onions when I cook typically so I left those out. And I used elbow noodles instead and they worked out great with just the 5 minutes on high pressure. I’m moving this to my favorites pins!

  10. Soooooo good! I didn’t use shells but it was still so delicious and filling! Absolutely making this again!

  11. I made this recipe tonight and followed it as written. I had issues to say the least. My 6qt Instant Pot never pressurized. After the 1st 5 minutes when I realized that it hadn’t pressurized I added more liquid (another cup) put the lid back on for another 5 minutes. SAME THING HAPPENED. I tested the noodles…still raw. I added another cup and a half of liquid and cooked another 5 minutes. NEVER pressurized……removed lid to find everything cooked but a VERY burnt bottom of the liner. What happened here? I think we would enjoy the recipe…HELP!!!

  12. This was so creamy and delicious – I ate the leftovers for a few days afterwards and never got sick of it. Made it exactly according to the directions and it came out perfectly. I’m actually making it again tonight! It’s perfect for my pregnancy cravings

  13. Got a nasty burn notice even after I made sure to scrape the heck out of the bottom. I think it might be better to pour the water in and mix it a little while scraping any bit of food off the bottom, and then put in the shells and pour the pasta sauce over the top and not stir except to push shells into sauce.

      1. Just keep trying! Some Instant Pots are more sensitive than others. Try a bit more oil in the bottom too. I have made this recipe at least 10 times, and I do drain the meat and wipe the pot out well before moving on to all the other ingredients.

    1. I do. Sometimes I just double the meat and seasonings and leave the rest the same. Pretty much depends on if your instant pot is big enough.

  14. What is manual pressure release?? Does that mean I let it do it on its own like a natural release? Or does manual mean quick release??

  15. I had 2#s of ground beef that had to be used up so I put all of it into the recipe but the only thing I truly doubled was the cream cheese. I used 1 onion and stayed with the same amount of pasta, tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, and water. I added more seasonings though since I used more meat . I have a Crockpot brand instant pot so set my time to 7 min just in case. Then went back to work and I lost track of time until it was about 11 minutes after but the pasta was still perfectly al-dente after I opened it. Great flavor! Thank you!!

    1. Yes! I didn’t put any cream cheese and it was amazing and delicious. The heavy cream made it creamy enough so much so I can’t imagine it with the cream cheese. Even then I didn’t put the entire amount of heavy cream called for.

  16. Followed the recipe as written. Did forget to the scrape the bottom of the pan, so we got the burn error. Was very good!

  17. I used an 8Q IP. Followed recipe but added 2 mins as other suggested. Pasta was still undercooked. I might do 10 mins total next time. I didn’t get the burn warning; however, it was JUST slightly starting to burn when I opened the lid. Glad I opened it when I did. Great taste, though.

      1. The 8 qt Instant Pot seems to burn a lot easier than the 6 qt. I would definitely recommend using more water as the 8qt seems to need it!

  18. I made this with penne instead of shells, and added some extra cheese (I’m from Wisconsin, what can I say) and it’s heavenly. I will definitely be making this again.

    1. I used the Barilla ProteinPlus Penne! It worked perfect! I typically pick high protein pastas since my daughters notoriously pick around meat.

      1. I always make it GF – just follow the box’s time for cooking and subtract 1 minute – you should be good to go! Works wonderfully!

        1. So I made this tonight and followed the instructions in my 6qt InstantPot and had problems. 😢 It didn’t pressurize the 1st time so I added more liquid. Did the same again and I added more liquid total of 2 1/2 more cups. Finally the 3rd time at least the noodles were cooked but the bottom of my pan was burnt and it never pressurized. HELP!! What could have happened here???

  19. I found this recipe when we got our instant pot 3 months ago for our wedding. I saved it and just came across it again today. Amazing! Great flavor and so creamy and delicious. Can’t wait to make it again!

  20. Made this exactly as written and it turned out delicious! I’d love to make it again but since I’m only cooking for two I wanted to only make a half recipe. Would I adjust the water and/or cooking time if I cut all of the other ingredients in half? Thank you!

    1. I always cook for my 7 year old son and myself. When I make dishes like this, I freeze half of it for a quick dinner later. Just a thought!

  21. Delicious! I’ve made it twice since Christmas (when I got my 8 qt. Pot). I skip the red pepper flakes and follow the rest of the recipe and it has turned out perfect every time. We are having a great time with our Pot – it has really changed up our options, especially during the week. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. This was good! I did find it a bit spicy, so I will cut the red peppers by half next time. And as others have said, increase the cook time by 2-3 minutes. My noodles were still hard the first time.

  23. This was good! I would, as others have suggested, increase cook time by 2-3 minutes. I did find it somewhat spicy, so I would cut the peppers by half.

  24. I’ve made this twice and keep getting the burn notice. I’m wondering if the meat, water, and sauce should be mixed first? Hen put the pasta on top and press pasta down into liquid/meat mixture. Anyone try that? I definitely scrape the bottom after
    sautéing the meat, so it’s not that.

    1. After I saute the onions and the hamburg and add the seasonings, I deglaze with a little bit of the water. This removes any of the burned on bits on the bottom of the pan. I’ve made this several times now, and it always comes out perfect…knock on wood!

  25. This was a hit. We enjoyed it. However, like many have mentioned, the “burn” notification came on. Would be interested to know if others who got it were able to fix the issue if they made it again.

  26. Wonderful! I made it with 2 pounds of beef and all the rest as written. And put timer on 6 minutes. . This will be a regular dish now family loved it and it was so easy. Next time tough I may use half beef and half Italian sausage for a hint more flavor.

  27. I’ve made this several times. It’s one of my favorite Instant Pot dishes. Love it! Could eat it every week. It’s rich, creamy and very easy. Add a salad and garlic bread and it’s a great dinner.

  28. Very good! I did get a burn message and the ground beef part was sticking. There was plenty of liquid in the pot so I’m not sure why? I have an 8 quart so maybe needed to add more then 3 cups water?? Either way it tasted great and very easy to make.

  29. I made this dish and it was very good. Almost like lasgna without all the cheese, but I liked it a lot because it was very creamy. We will definitely be making this again!
    I always make my own pasta sauce and didn’t want to cook something separate on the stove so I altered the recipe just a bit. I sauteed the meat in the pan and added the tomato paste and spices as called for, deglazing the pan with the tomato paste. I added the pasta (whole wheat) and then I placed all of the ingredients for my homemade pasta sauce on top (pureed crushed tomatoes, more Italian seasoning, onion and garlic powder and more salt and pepper.). I added the 3 cups of water, plus a bit more to clean out the tomato from the can. While I did receive a burn notice, I knew there was plenty of liquid in the pot so I just let it continue to cook. To my surprise everything was just fine when I opened the pot after the quick release. There was a bit of meat and tomato paste getting a little burnt/stuck to the bottom but after a good stir you could not tell it all mixed in and didn’t effect the flavor. I think my meat and tomato paste was a bit thick and needed more moisture at the bottom so I plan to try that next time and see if that helps. However, I would suggest to just continue cooking if you know there’s enough liquid (3 cups should be plenty) because your dish will still finish. It made me nervous since this is only my 3rd Tim to cook in the instant pot and I didn’t know what would happen. Very happy with the end result though and I hope this helps some one else.

    1. You’re defInitely helping me out, jar sauces just don’t appeal to my taste, I would like to know what size can of tomatoes you used? Thanks

  30. A friend told me about this recipe when I was searching for something to do as my first IP attempt. It was so great! The whole family loved it! I followed the recipe exactly.

  31. I usually don’t take the time to leave reviews for things but I am going out of my way to say TRY THIS!!

    I’ve made this recipe probably 5 times and it gets better each time. I use ground turkey instead of beef, substitute chicken stock for water, and go heavy on the seasoning. It is so good!!

    Quick, easy AND freezes well. You won’t be disappointed.

  32. Just made this. Made exactly how the recipe reads. I did add another minute to cook time after reading the comments. It was perfect and didn’t have one problem with the pot like others. I would definitely make this again.

  33. Used Penne Pasta since this is what I had on hand. Also used jar Alfredo instead of the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Cooked 6 minutes and did 10 min NPR. perfect!

  34. This recipe turned out wonderful. I decided to pressure cook for 6min though based on previous comments regarding the noodles not being done- worked perfect. I also let natural release for about 12min, QR after to save time and it didn’t change anything with how this turned out. I also used mozz just because it’s what I had.

  35. Tried this for the first time tonight….my wife and I loved it. The pasta was under cooked after the 5 minute cook time but I didn’t taste it until after the cheese was mixed in. I put the instant pot on “Saute” and stirred it continuously for 1-2 minutes. I then put it on “Keep Warm” and continued stirring for another minute. I turned the pot off and placed the lid on, letting the pasta sit until it was just right. I had to let the pot soak because cheese was stuck to it. I’ll try 6 minutes next time and test the pasta before adding the cheese. This is destined to be a family favorite. Thanks!!

  36. I made this. Haven’t eaten it yet, but it smells wonderful. Problem is: I kept getting the “burn” error on my Instant Pot (pretty new—got it a couple months ago). Even though I followed the recipe, including pressing the pasta down rather than stirring, the stuff kept burning on the bottom of the pot, and then i’d Get that message. Tried three times, and it was fairly cooked, even though I never go to full pressure. Had to simmer on the stone top a bit to reduce the liquid. We’ll see how it goes…

    1. If there is anything stuck to the bottom of the pot after you brown your meat you will get that notice. In that case you may have to remove the meat, put the pot on sauté then add some of the water you’ll use from the recipe and scrape the bottom of the pot clean. Then add the meat back in then the other ingredients and cook as instructed. Hope this helps!

  37. I made this with garlic and onion pasta sauce. Was so delicious. Sadly there were no left overs for lunch tomorrow.

  38. This was my first meal in my Instant Pot and have made it several times since. It’s pretty awesome and so easy.

  39. Hi, you mention a tablespoon of tomato paste in your post, but not in the recipe portion. Is it supposed to be added? Thanks.

  40. I made this tonight in my instant pot, initially the shells were a lil hard so i put the lid back on and kept it on warm, and wow!!!! What a hit!!! Easy and five stars for sure!!!!

  41. i just made it and came out perfectly. I used a different type of noodle since I didn’t have shells handy. Crowd pleaser and good left overs. comfort food.

    1. It can be made in a regular pot just fine. Just be vigilant for burning, as it goes south quite quickly. However, it is just as delicious.

        1. I could be wrong so I hope, if i am, someone will chime in. On my instant pot duo it’s the “manual” button in place of the term “pressure cook”. Hope this helps 🙂 I had to search through videos to find this out since the manual isn’t very detailed in explaining.

        2. I have the crock pot pressure cooker/slow cooker combo and it suggested using the beans/chili option and set your pressure to high or low and set the timer. Hope this helps! I just tried this recipe tonight—still in the pot actually. Noodles didn’t cook at all after the initial 5 min time, so I turned it on for another 5 min, and am doing the natural release as I’m assuming that’s what manual release is, because the other option is Quick Release. We’ll see how it turns out!

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