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Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is an easy pressure cooker dinner recipe made with ground beef and pasta in a tomato cream sauce. Perfect for busy days!

instant pot creamy shells and beef on a white plate

If you’re looking for an easy Instant Pot recipe made with ground beef and pasta, you’re going to love this delicious Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef. It’s like homemade Hamburger Helper, and it’s super kid friendly. Best of all, it’s a one pot dinner, so there’s hardly any clean-up!

Update! Shells and Beef is without a doubt, one of my most popular recipes. I first made it in 2017, and you all love it — check the comments for the rave reviews! So, I just added better pictures and tips to make this recipe even better as of June 2020!

Also, note that this is the original — a lot of people loved it so much that they created their own recipes. That’s great and all, but this one’s the real deal. Promise!

bowl of pasta shells and ground beef in creamy sauce

Have you bought an Instant Pot yet? I’ve been seeing so many Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest and just about everywhere lately, so of course I was curious. I finally gave in and bought one of these modern pressure cookers on Cyber Monday — I got a smokin’ deal!  And friends, let me tell you, that I’m definitely in love!

If you’ve never made dinner or anything else in a pressure cooker, it can be tricky at first. There’s definitely a learning curve here! But once you get the hang of it, you’re going to love cooking with your Instant Pot!

I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with different Instant Pot recipes, and I was able to convert some of my favorite one pot dinner recipes to pressure cooker dinner recipes. Yea — Go me!

This Creamy One Pot Shells and Beef  is not only one of my family’s favorite ground beef recipes, but it’s also one of the most popular recipes on the blog. It’s basically just pasta, beef and marinara sauce, along with a little bit of cream. It’s super easy to make on the stove, but I had to change some things to make it work in the pressure cooker.

And in case you’re wondering — Yes, you can make pasta in the Instant Pot! You just have to make sure that you also add enough liquid to make it all work!

How to Make Ground Beef and Shells in the Pressure Cooker

You start off by sauteing an onion in the Instant Pot, and then, you add some lean ground beef. I buy lean or extra lean ground beef, so I don’t remove the grease. But, you can definitely remove the grease if you want to.

Next, add your seasonings. Then, you add your uncooked shell pasta, some marinara sauce and water.

You have to make sure that the pasta and everything else is completely covered with water and sauce. You don’t need to stir it all together, ( in fact, don’t stir it yet!) but you can push it all down with a spatula or spoon, just to make sure the liquid is covering the pasta.

instant pot creamy shells and beef in pressure cooker before cooking

Next, you use the pressure cooking function. Pasta cooks in the Instant Pot for about half the time it cooks on the stove. A good rule of thumb for cooking pasta in the Instant Pot is to cook for half the time recommended on the package.

I set the timer to 5 minutes, which gives you a softer texture, but you could do 4 minutes for firmer pasta or even 6 minutes for even softer pasta.

It takes about 10 minutes or so for the pot to come to pressure, and then, the Instant Pot starts cooking and counting down the minutes until the pasta is done

When 5 minutes are up, do a quick release by turning the valve to release. Be sure to wear an oven mitt or use a spoon to be on the safe side. Remove the lid, stir in the cream and Parm, and you’re done!

instant pot creamy shells and beef in pressure cooker

One of the best thing about cooking with an Instant Pot is that you don’t have to babysit a pot on the stove. Just let the pressure cooker do the work, and come back when the time is up!

It’s quick and easy to prepare, and dinner is made in just one pot for easy clean up! My family loves the texture of the pasta, too.

In fact, my kids couldn’t get enough of this creamy shells and beef! They literally ate it all up! If you like it, You might also want to try Instant Pot Creamy Chicken Pasta and Instant Pot Creamy Sausage and Shells.

shell pasta and beef in tomato sauce a white serving bowl

Tips for Cooking Pasta and Meat in the Instant Pot

  • Make sure pasta and meat are completely covered by liquids
  • Don’t stir the mixture before pressure cooking
  • Cook pasta for about half the cook time on the box of pasta
  • Add milk or cream at the end, right before serving

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef Recipe

5 from 102 votes

Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef

By: Dee
Instant Pot Creamy Shells and Beef is an easy one pot dinner made entirely in the pressure cooker. It’s like homemade hamburger helper, with ground beef and pasta in a tomato cream sauce and very kid friendly!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
pressure time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 10


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1-pound box medium shell pasta
  • 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
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  • Turn Instant Pot to saute setting, and wait for the display to turn to HOT
  • Add olive oil and onions, and cook until slightly soft
  • Add ground beef, break up with spatula, and cook until no longer pink, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to pot
  • Season with sea salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and  hit CANCEl
  • Add shells over ground beef, then add the marinara sauce and water. Do not stir, but press lightly with spoon to ensure pasta is completely covered with sauce and water
  • Place lid on Instant Pot, close, and make sure vent is set to SEALING position
  • Hit PRESSURE COOK for 5 minutes, or half the cooking time on the box of pasta 
  • When pressure cooking is done, do a quick release, then remove lid and hit CANCEl to turn cooker off
  • Stir in heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, and serve



Recipe can be made in the 8 quart and 6 quart Instant Pot or similar electric pressure cookers without changing times or amounts.
I use Barilla brand marinara sauce or RAO’s pasta sauce and Barilla pasta in this recipe.
You can add another 1/2 to 1 cup water for a thinner sauce or more cream at the end.
If you double the ingredients, cook time remains the same. Updated 6/20


Calories: 254kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 86mg, Sodium: 436mg, Potassium: 245mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 620IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 155mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Like this? Leave a comment below!

More Easy Instant Pot Ground Beef and Pasta Recipes

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More Favorite Pressure Cooker Recipes

instant pot creamy shells and beef on a plate with parsley
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Recipe Rating


  1. Melissa says:

    Absolutely wonderful! This is only second time I have ever used a Insta pot. I am hooked and your recipe was so easy to follow. Only thing I did differently was added a small can of chopped tomatoes. Everyone loved it! Thank you!5 stars

    1. Dee says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Melissa! Glad you liked the recipe!

  2. Kaua’i says:

    Oh my goodness this is delicious!! I was so tired and only had hamburger in my freezer but wanted something new. I had almost all the ingredients on hand and just needed to get heavy cream and shells.

    Followed the directions step by step. When I took it out it look kinda blah but I made me a serving and OH MY JESUS It’s divine! Adding to the weekly rotation so easy and yummy

  3. Shelby says:

    Soooo good! I used one pound of ground turkey and one pound hot Italian sausage. Followed recipe otherwise and loved it!! My mom was wondering if she could replicate in her crockpot. Any suggestions for cook time after cooking ground meat and onions on stove top? Or just do all stove pot? Thanks so much!

    1. Dee says:

      I have never tried this in the crockpot, but I do have a stove top version of creamy shells and beef.

  4. Chelle says:

    I’ve made this several times. My boyfriend loves this dish. He requested it yesterday for his birthday meal. Thank you!!5 stars

    1. Dee says:

      So happy to hear this! Thank you so much for the wonderful review.

  5. Miranda says:

    First, I love this. It’s comfort food and so easy and tasty.

    I made it tonight for at least the third time but tonight got a food burn error on my IP and that’s never happened before. I did drain my beef and didn’t have shells so I used farafelle but I’m not sure that would have caused it. I have an 8 court IP. Any ideas on what might have gone wrong this time?5 stars

    1. Dee says:

      Was there any residue or anything stuck on the bottom of the pot? Sometimes that can trigger the error warning. I’m glad you like the recipe!

  6. JW says:

    Do you drain the ground beef after browning?

    1. Dee says:

      I use lean ground beef or extra lean beef, so I don’t drain it. You can if needed.

  7. Karen says:

    So good! Frequently requested by my teens. I’m sometimes too lazy for the onion and it’s still great. I sometimes use Italian chicken sausage. My fave sauce is the Victoria from Costco! Thanks for the recipe !5 stars

    1. Dee says:

      Thank you for the wonderful review!

  8. Whitney says:

    My husband and I have been making this recipe for a couple years now and it’s a staple for us!

    I just now made it for my 4 and 2 year old. They liked everything but the ground beef… This may seem like a silly question, but is there a way to make this with no meat, do you think?

    1. Dee says:

      So happy you like the recipe — thanks! I haven’t tried it, but you can definitely leave out the meat. Just add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook as usual.

  9. Nicole Taylor says:

    This is a great recipe! The only thing I change is swap the water for beef/chicken/vegetable broth (whatever I have on hand)
    It takes the flavor to new heights!