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Creamy Beef and Shells Recipe – How to Make it in 11 Simple Steps

With ground beef and shell pasta in a delicious creamy, tomato based sauce, our recipe for Creamy Beef and Shells cooks up quickly and easily in a skillet. Just cook the meat, prepare the sauce, and stir in prepared pasta to have a meal that your family will love.

A close look at a plate of creamy beef and shells pasta.

Everybody loves pasta, and because of that this recipe will soon be added to the dinner rotation for your family. This recipe includes the ever popular flavors of pasta and tomatoes from the sauce. We pumped up the creamy texture of this recipe by adding, not only heavy cream and cheddar cheese, but also a large dollop of sour cream.

Several kinds of herbs round out the flavor profile of this dinner recipe. This recipe is filling and nutritious.

Creamy Beef and Shells Recipe

April Freeman
Hearty and filling with the flavors of tomato sauce and herbs, our recipe for Creamy Beef and Shells is a great one dish meal that even the pickiest kid will love.  This recipe is a quick and easy skillet meal in which you have pasta as a carbohydrate and beef for your protein. You can add a side salad and a crusty roll to have a complete dinner.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 Servings


  • Medium-Sized Saucepan
  • Colander
  • Large Frying Pan
  • Spatula
  • Wire whisk


  • Put 3 quarts of water and ½ teaspoon of salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Cook the pasta shells according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and shake it to remove as much water as possible. Keep the pasta in the colander until you need it later in the recipe.
  • In a large frying pan, over medium high heat, heat the olive oil until it sizzles when you flick a drop of water into it. Add the ground beef and cook it until it is browned, chopping it into small bits with a spatula. Drain excess fat into a heatproof container and discard it later when it solidifies. You need to keep about a tablespoon of grease in the skillet. Set the beef aside in a bowl.
  • Add the garlic to the pan, cooking it until it is fragrant and lightly golden. This should take about 60 seconds. 
  • Use a whisk to stir the flour into the skillet, stirring and cooking it until it is browned. This should take about 60 seconds. 
    The sauce of the beef broth is browned.
  • Slowly, whisk in the beef broth, stirring it until the browned flour is dissolved in the liquid.
    The flour is added and cooked.
  • Add the tomato sauce, the Italian seasoning, onion powder, dried parsley, and paprika. Whisk all of these until they are fully blended into the mixture.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Stir the mixture occasionally until it is thickened. This should take between 3 and 5 minutes.
  • Stir the beef back into the sauce mixture and add the heavy cream, stirring to blend. On low heat, allow the mixture to heat through until it is steaming. This should take about 1 or 2 minutes. Taste the sauce, and salt and pepper the mixture to taste. 
    The beef and heavy cream are then added.
  • Add the sour cream, stirring to combine. Add the pasta, stirring it to coat in the sauce.
  • Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the pasta and put the lid on to allow the cheese to melt. This should take about 3 or 4 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle parsley over the top of the mixture as a garnish. Serve in bowls.


You can use another form of ground meat if you don’t have beef on hand. Ground chicken or ground turkey will also work in this recipe. Alternatively, you can use ground pork. These other meat options may lend you a milder flavor for your recipe. If you want to keep the intensity of the flavor, you may want to add a beef bullion cube or increase the herbs in the recipe a bit.
Many of us grew up eating dinners like Hamburger Helper. These were the original, prepackaged, one dish dinners. Many of us have fond memories of the creamy, savory pasta dinners, but they don’t translate quite as well to the adult palate.
Additionally, these prepackaged dinners are sometimes full of unhealthy levels of sodium and some artificial flavorings that many of us would prefer to avoid. Recipes like this one for Creamy Beef and Shells can give you the taste, texture, and memories of the old-time Hamburger Helper boxes but without the artificial flavors and extra salt. Chances are that your kids will enjoy this dinner as much as you loved the old packaged meal. 
If you want to help dinner end up on the table quickly on a super busy night, you can prepare this dish ahead of time. Cook the pasta, drain it, and store it in the refrigerator. Prepare the ground beef and the sauce, and store it in the fridge as well.
When you’re ready to prepare dinner, take the sauce out of the fridge and heat it in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the pasta when the sauce starts bubbling. Stir it to warm the pasta, and then sprinkle the cheese over the top of the dish. When you prepare the components of this meal ahead of time, you can have dinner ready for the table in five minutes flat. 
Keyword Creamy Beef and Shells, Main Course, Recipe

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