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Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

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

Made from simple ingredients, it is perfect for a busy weeknight meal and is sure to be a family favorite.

How To Make

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

What readers are saying

This quickly became a family favorite. The kids could probably eat it every day and be happy. Leftovers are good for lunch the next day. And it’s very easy to improvise if I’m out of an ingredient or 2.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Make is spicier. Double the amount of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Use ground turkey or ground Italian sausage instead of ground beef.
  • Mix in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • To make it vegetarian, use Impossible 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

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. 
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 15 minutes
TOTAL: 25 minutes



  • 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.


Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Nutritional info is provided as a guide only and will vary based on brands of products used. Not to be used for specific dietary needs.


Calories: 684kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 1341mg | Potassium: 922mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1426IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 245mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ground beef, pasta

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Originally posted June 6, 2018.

Recipe adapted from Meatloaf and Melodrama

Creamy Shells & Beef made in an Instant Pot

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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140 thoughts on “Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef”

  1. Absolutely love this recipe, I’ve made it at least 10 times since discovering it and I’m so obsessed.

  2. My kids LOVE this recipe… we make it at least twice a month. I’ve made it with whatever meat we have in hand… beef, turkey, ground elk and ground deer. We’ve used heavy cream and half & half (just added a little extra cream cheese. We like to serve it with some green chile cornbread. Anyways- thanks for this awesome, family pleasing recipe… it’s a go to for our home!

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. Christine H.

    – 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!!!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Hi!! Has anyone doubled or tripled the recipe? Should I take any changes into consideration?

    Thanks so much

  9. K Ann Guinn

    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!

  10. 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! 😊

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. Stacy Dodge

    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!

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

  14. 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!!!

  15. Tracey McKie

    Will be trying this with my NonStick Enamel pot this week, hoping it doesn’t burn then..

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