Creamy Instant Pot Shells and Beef

When it comes to quick and convenient homemade meals, the Instant Pot and the slow cooker are two modern inventions that go a long way in making life easier. The difference between the two is that the Instant Pot allows you to saute your foods in the insert, so you get a truly one-pot set-it-and-forget-it meal. (Less dishes is always good news as far as we’re concerned.) Our Creamy Instant Pot Shells and Beef makes perfect use of those features for one comforting, delicious, easy-to-make meal.

You start here by browning the beef and sauteeing some onion in the Instant Pot itself. That means no extra pans or dishes required. Then, you add the noodles, some seasoning, and some tomato sauce before closing the pot to let it work its magic.

The noodles cook in their own sauce which means that they absorb so much of that wonderful flavor. While we start with a jar of pre-made sauce, it’s doctored up with a few additional seasonings to give it a little homemade flair. Once the Instant Pot timer dings and the noodles are nice and tender, you stir in a little heavy cream, Parmesan, and some cream cheese.

The Parmesan gives you that gooey comfort that only cheese can, while the cream cheese makes for an amazingly satisfying creamy sauce. Every spoonful has the tender chew of shells with a bite of ground beef, all surrounded by a rich tomato sauce. It’s the kind of meal that bridges the gap between comfort food and a quick weeknight meal. It’s a crave-worthy dinner, but it’s one that will take you no more than twenty minutes.

Instant Pot Shells and Beef

20 minutes to prepare serves 6


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (16 oz.) box dry shell pasta
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar tomato basil sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature, cubed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Set instant pot to sauté and heat olive oil until shimmering, then add onion and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and translucent.
  2. Add ground beef, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook until browned. Another 6-8 minutes.
  3. Season with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, plus salt and pepper as needed, then stir in tomato paste.
  4. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then stir in dry shells.
  5. Pour in tomato sauce and water, but don’t stir, ensuring pasta stays submerged in liquid.
  6. Seal lid and pressure valve, then set to pressure cook (on high) for 5 minutes.
  7. Manually release pressure valve, then stir in heavy cream, cream cheese and parmesan.
  8. Place lid on instant pot (no need to seal), and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted and sauce is smooth.
  9. Serve hot and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen.