Creamy Beef and Shells

Savor the comforting flavors of home-cooked goodness with our Creamy Beef and Shells recipe. This hearty dish features tender pasta shells enveloped in a luscious, creamy sauce infused with savory ground beef, aromatic garlic, and fragrant Italian seasoning. Topped with a generous layer of melted extra-sharp cheddar cheese, it’s a meal that’s sure to become a family favorite, perfect for cozy weeknight dinners or special occasions.


  • 8 ounces medium pasta shells
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)


  1. Cook Pasta: Start by cooking the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta well and set it aside for later.
  2. Brown Ground Beef: In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook it until it’s nicely browned, which usually takes about 3-5 minutes. Make sure to break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Once browned, drain any excess fat and set the beef aside.
  3. Saute Onion: To the same skillet, add the diced onion and cook it, stirring frequently, until it becomes translucent, which typically takes about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add Aromatics: Stir in the minced garlic and Italian seasoning, and cook until they become fragrant, usually about 1 minute.
  5. Thicken Sauce: Sprinkle the flour over the onion and garlic mixture, stirring constantly, until it becomes lightly browned, approximately 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the beef stock and tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce slightly thickens, about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Combine Ingredients: Add the cooked pasta, browned beef, and heavy cream to the skillet. Stir everything together until heated through, which usually takes about 1-2 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Melt Cheese: Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until it’s melted and fully incorporated into the sauce, approximately 2 minutes.
  8. Serve: Serve the Creamy Beef and Shells immediately, garnished with fresh parsley or grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes | Servings: 4

Serving and Storage Tips:


  • Serve Creamy Beef and Shells hot, straight from the skillet, for the best taste and texture.
  • Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or grated Parmesan cheese for added flavor and visual appeal.
  • Pair it with a side salad or garlic bread to complete the meal and add extra depth to the dining experience.
  • Consider serving it in individual bowls or on plates for a more elegant presentation at dinner parties or gatherings.


  • Store any leftover Creamy Beef and Shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • Reheat the leftovers gently in a microwave or on the stovetop, adding a splash of beef stock or cream to maintain moisture and prevent the dish from drying out.
  • Avoid freezing Creamy Beef and Shells as the texture of the pasta and sauce may become compromised upon thawing.


Vegetarian Option:

  • Substitute the ground beef with cooked lentils or your favorite meat alternative for a vegetarian-friendly version of this dish.

Spicy Twist:

  • Add a kick of heat by incorporating diced jalapeños or red pepper flakes into the sauce for those who enjoy a bit of spice in their meals.

Mushroom Medley:

  • Enhance the umami flavor by sautéing a mix of mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and oyster, along with the onions and garlic.

Herb Infusion:

  • Experiment with different herbs like rosemary, thyme, or basil to elevate the flavor profile of the dish and add a touch of freshness.

Creamy Chicken and Shells:

  • Swap out the ground beef for diced chicken breast or shredded rotisserie chicken for a poultry twist on this classic recipe.

Mediterranean Inspired:

  • Incorporate Mediterranean flavors by adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese to the sauce.

Cajun Seasoning:

  • Infuse the dish with Cajun flair by seasoning the ground beef with Cajun seasoning and garnishing with chopped green onions and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.

Broccoli and Cheese:

  • Introduce some green goodness by stirring in steamed broccoli florets along with the pasta and beef, and increase the cheese for extra creaminess.

Creamy Sausage and Shells:

  • Substitute the ground beef with Italian sausage or chorizo for a flavorful variation. Brown the sausage along with the onions and garlic before adding the remaining ingredients.

Creamy Beef and Mac:

  • Swap the pasta shells for macaroni noodles to create a Creamy Beef and Macaroni dish. The smaller noodles provide a different texture while still soaking up the delicious sauce.

Creamy Bacon and Shells:

  • Add crispy bacon pieces to the creamy sauce for a smoky and indulgent twist. Sprinkle extra bacon on top before serving for added crunch and flavor.


  • Infuse the dish with taco flavors by seasoning the ground beef with taco seasoning and adding black beans, corn kernels, and diced tomatoes to the sauce. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro on top.


  1. Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?
    • Yes, ground turkey can be used as a leaner alternative to ground beef in this recipe. Adjust cooking times as needed.
  2. Can I make this dish ahead of time?
    • Absolutely! You can prepare the Creamy Beef and Shells up to a day in advance, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it before serving.
  3. What can I use instead of heavy cream?
    • You can substitute heavy cream with half-and-half or evaporated milk for a lighter option, though the sauce may not be as rich and creamy.
  4. Can I use a different type of pasta?
    • Yes, feel free to use your favorite pasta shape or whatever you have on hand. Penne, rigatoni, or farfalle would all work well in this dish.
  5. How can I make this dish gluten-free?
    • Use gluten-free pasta and substitute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend or cornstarch for thickening the sauce.
  6. Can I add vegetables to this dish?
    • Absolutely! Feel free to add diced bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, or any other vegetables you enjoy to enhance the nutritional value and flavor of the dish.
  7. What’s the best way to reheat leftovers?
    • Reheat the leftovers gently in a saucepan on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through. Alternatively, microwave individual portions on medium power, stirring halfway through.
  8. Can I use different types of cheese?
    • Yes, you can experiment with different cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone, or Monterey Jack to customize the flavor to your liking.
  9. Can I make this dish spicy?
    • Absolutely! Add cayenne pepper, chili powder, or hot sauce to the sauce to give it a spicy kick.
  10. Can I freeze leftovers?
    • While it’s possible to freeze Creamy Beef and Shells, the texture of the pasta and sauce may change slightly upon thawing. If freezing, store in an airtight container for up to 1-2 months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

With its rich, creamy sauce and comforting flavors, our Creamy Beef and Shells recipe is guaranteed to satisfy your cravings for a hearty and delicious meal. Whether you’re cooking for family dinner or hosting a gathering with friends, this dish is sure to impress. Give it a try and enjoy the warmth and comfort it brings to your table!