Creamy Beef and Shells is a delicious family-friendly meal that’s sure to be a hit! Everyone will love the creamy, cheesy sauce with ground beef and your favorite pasta shells. Plus, this dish can easily be prepared in under 30 minutes – perfect for busy weeknights or when you want an easy but tasty meal.

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Easy Creamy Beef and Shells Recipe

Our easy Creamy Beef and Shells recipe makes a cheesy, meaty, hearty meal that is ready in 30 minutes. A super simple weeknight supper!

Packed with seasoned ground beef, tender pasta, creamy tomato sauce, and plenty of cheese, this one-pan dinner is so delicious that even the pickiest people will devour it!

Our recipe puts a healthier spin on the popular packaged box of pasta and powdered seasoning; it’s like a homemade hamburger helper made with fresh ingredients that you can pronounce!

This easy ground beef recipe comes together quickly and can be on the table in no time – simply brown your beef, simmer your seasonings, flour, beef broth in tomato sauce, then mix the pasta, meat, cream, sauce, and cheese together to make the most delicious meal.

When comfort food and convenience are paired together in one pan, you’ve created the best flavor combination of a cheesy beef pasta!

Why We Love Beef And Shells Pasta

  • Quick and easy to make in 30 minutes.
  • Uses simple kitchen staple ingredients. Add fresh veggies to bulk it up!
  • Everything cooks in a single skillet, so cleanup is fast.
  • It’s like eating cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese merged into one meal.
  • Perfect family-friendly dinner idea that’s delicious.
creamy beef shells on a wooden spoon

Creamy Beef And Shells Ingredients

  • Medium pasta shells
  • Olive oil
  • Ground beef: I like to use lean ground beef or Piedmontese beef for this recipe.
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Paprika
  • Mustard powder
  • Flour
  • Beef stock
  • Tomato sauce
  • Heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese

Substitutions And Additions

  • More Meat Options: Feel free to make a lighter version of this dish by using ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork in place of ground beef.
  • Pick Your Pasta: I used medium pasta shells in this recipe because it’s the perfect shape for housing the beefy mixture, but penne, elbow macaroni, rotini, farfalle, and fusilli will work as well.
  • Choose Your Cheese: I love using extra sharp cheddar cheese in this pasta dish, but you can use another cheese, like mozzarella, Mexican cheese blend, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack, or any other cheese that melts well.
  • Vegetarian Version: For a vegetarian pasta recipe, add in vegetarian crumbles or simply omit the meat altogether! The sauce is delicious without the meat and you can use a vegetarian stock to replace the beef stock. 
  • Add Veggies For Vitamins: Make this a complete meal by adding in some vegetables for a boost of vitamins. I love broccoli, asparagus, and peppers, but any of your favorites will work perfectly.
  • Go Gluten Free: To make this a gluten free dish, use gluten-free flour and gluten-free pasta.
  • Large pot
  • Large skillet
  • Wooden spoon
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How to Make Creamy Beef and Shells

  1. Prepare The Pasta: Cook the pasta according to package instructions and drain well.
  2. Brown The Beef: In a large skillet add olive oil and the ground beef and cook until browned, drain, and set aside.
  3. Simmer The Sauce: Cook the onion until translucent, then stir in garlic, Italian seasoning, paprika and mustard powder. Cook for 1 minute, whisk in flour until lightly browned, and then whisk in beef stock and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, until reduced and slightly thickened.
  4. Combine: Stir in pasta, beef, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese until melted. (Optional – top with parmesan cheese)
  5. Serve: Serve hot and enjoy!
collage creamy beef and shells

Pro Tips For Making Creamy Beef And Shells

  • To prevent the pasta from becoming soggy, I like to cook it just al dente. That way when you combine it with the sauce, further cooking won’t make it too mushy.
  • Use a block of cheese that you grate by hand so that it melts smoothly into the sauce. Pre-shredded cheese has a coating on it and doesn’t melt quite as well as freshly shredded cheese.

How To Store Creamy Beef And Shells

  • To Store: Cool and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • To Freeze: To freeze, let the pasta cool to room temperature and then store it in an airtight container in the freezer for 1 to 2 months. You can freeze the sauce separately for up to 6 months.
  • To Reheat: Reheat on the stovetop until warmed through.
creamy beef shells on a plate

What To Serve with Creamy Beef And Shells

This creamy beef and shells dish pairs perfectly with a side salad or a steamed veggie. To make this a complete meal, serve you dinner with my Olive Garden Salad, Broccoli Slaw, Cauliflower Breadsticks, or some garlic bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store creamy beef and shells?

To store any leftover creamy beef and shells, let it cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container and placing it in the fridge. You can keep it refrigerated for up to 3 days. Keep in mind that once chilled, the pasta will absorb more sauce. Therefore, when reheating, you may need to add a bit more heavy cream or beef stock.

What can I use instead of heavy cream?

If you do not have any heavy cream on hand, you can use half and half or milk in a pinch. I prefer heavy cream in this recipe because it has more fat and doesn’t curdle in the acidic tomato sauce.

Can this be made ahead and frozen?

For those who love to meal plan, freezing the sauce and adding cooked pasta on serving day is a ideal. You can freeze the sauce for up to 6 months.

If I don’t have beef stock, what else can I use?

You can substitute any type of stock or broth for this recipe. Chicken or vegetable stock will work just fine. When I make this for my son, who is vegetarian, I use veggie stock and Beyond Meat crumbles and it turns out amazing!

What type of tomato sauce should I use?

You can use any type of jarred sauce, I like to use Classico or Rao’s or Trader Joe’s marinara is one of my favorites.

creamy beef shells

More Easy Dinner Recipes

4.88 from 122 votes
Beef and Shells featured image

Creamy Beef and Shells

Serves — 6
Our Creamy Beef and Shells is an easy meat and pasta meal that's perfect for even the pickiest eaters. Simply delicious and can be on the dinner table in under 30 minutes.
Prep Time 0 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes



  • 8 ounces medium pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 15-ounce jar tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese about 1 ½ cups


  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain well
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown, about 3-5 minutes, crumbling the ground beef. Drain excess fat and set aside
  • Add onion to the skillet, cook stirring frequently until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning, paprika and mustard powder, cook about 1 minute
  • Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute
  • Gradually whisk in beef stock and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced and slightly thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Stir in pasta, beef and heavy cream and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in cheese until melted.

Jenn’s Notes

To Store: Store any leftover creamy beef and shells, let it cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container and placing it in the fridge.
You can keep it refrigerated for up to 3 days. Keep in mind that once chilled, the pasta will absorb more sauce. When reheating, you may need to add a bit more heavy cream or beef stock.

Nutrition Info

Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 398mg | Potassium: 504mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 894IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 251mg | Iron: 3mg

Originally posted 9/6/19

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  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! My husband didn’t even share the leftovers with me! My changes: low sodium beef broth and we cut the cream in half. We loved it!

  2. 5 stars
    This was a yummy, savory dinner. Husband loved it. At the very end, before the cream and the cheese went in, I tasted it and it was GREAT! I put the cream and cheese back in the fridge. Its a great option if you are trying to watch calories.

    1. I have tried half and half, but not 2% yet. I think it will work, but it won’t be nearly as creamy, but should still taste yummy! LMK how it turns out for you if you try it. I think it should be fine though.