This 30-minute creamy beef and shells recipe is incredibly simple to make. It's a hearty and comforting family meal that you'll enjoy again and again!
I think you'll also enjoy my Homemade Hamburger Helper recipe next.
Why you'll love it
Beef and shells is the ultimate easy pasta recipe that feels like an upgrade when it's actually hassle free to make. The ground beef and tomato sauce is rich and flavorful, and it reheats great. It's a favorite among kids as well.
This pasta with a meat sauce is perfect for when you want something quick and cozy after a busy workday. It's not fancy, but it sure tastes amazing! We're using a couple of all-purpose seasonings, and the results are fantastic, like a simple Bolognese.
What you'll need
- Shells - they're great little pockets for the sauce
- Olive oil - for sautéing
- Onion - sweet (Vidalia) onions are my go-to here
- Ground beef - I recommend using the leanest ground beef you can find because then you can skip the step of draining the fat
- Garlic powder and chili powder - our savory seasonings. Make sure your chili powder is mild.
- Canned tomato sauce - it's sometimes labelled as passata internationally
- Beef broth - adds depth of flavor
- Heavy cream - it's a touch of luxuriousness
Tools for this recipe
Check out Natasha's favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!
How to make beef and shells
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile, sauté the onion. Add the beef, and brown it while breaking it up with a spoon. Drain any excess fat.
- Add in the seasonings, tomato sauce, and broth. Give it a stir, and then simmer until reduced slightly.
- Stir in the cream and add salt & pepper. Warm it through, toss with the pasta, and top with fresh chopped parsley if desired.
Substitutions and variations
- You could leave the cream out if you really need to, but I do love the richer flavor it adds to this recipe. It's a small amount. I wouldn't use half-and-half, though, as the tomatoes may curdle it.
- If you don't have any shells on hand, you can definitely sub with a different kind of pasta with this meat sauce.
- I'd add a cup of grated cheddar and stir it in towards the end if you want to make the sauce cheesy. The little ones will love that twist.
What to serve with beef and shells
- Readers enjoy adding toppings to this ground beef pasta like sour cream or a dollop of ricotta. I like fresh parsley. Be creative!
- Round out the meal with a delicious salad. Try my popular 10-minute Caesar Dressing from scratch that doesn't require a blender or this bright Creamy Cucumber Salad.
- Pasta night is always made better with a big slice of Cheesy Garlic Bread or breadsticks.
Leftovers and storage
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Reheat in a saucepan over a low heat until warmed through. If needed, add a splash of cream or broth to perk up the sauce.
- This sauce freezes well. I'd cook fresh pasta once you're ready to eat, though.
If you made this creamy beef and shells recipe, please leave a star rating and review below! Ask me any questions not answered above. Tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram if you made any of my recipes.
Easy Creamy Beef and Shells
- 8 ounces medium uncooked shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or use 3 cloves minced garlic)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 (14 fluid ounce) can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Boil water for your pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions.
- In a skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat (ok if it browns a little).
- Add the beef to the pan and cook it until it's browned, breaking it up with your spoon as you go along (about 5 minutes). If there's a lot of excess fat, spoon most of it out.
- Stir in the garlic powder and chili powder, then add the tomato sauce and beef broth. Give it a good stir and cook it for 4-5 minutes or so (reduce the heat so it's gently simmering). The sauce should reduce a bit, but don't let it go dry.
- Stir in the cream and season with salt & pepper as needed. Let the cream warm through and then toss with the drained pasta shells. Serve immediately.
- Serves 4-6 depending on how much people eat.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.