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Creamy Beef and Shells

Creamy Beef and Shells is a hearty pasta dish that is perfect for a quick dinner for the whole family! It is rich, flavorful, and cheesy and even kids will love it!

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The combination of marinara sauce and dairy makes it so yummy. And you get all sorts of savory flavors coming from the aromatics and the different herbs and seasonings.

You have protein and carbs in one dish and that makes this hearty and filling. Serve it with a side of veggies, and you get yourself a complete lunch or dinner!

Kids also love it! It is easy to eat and each bite gives you cheesy and beefy goodness.

Busy on weeknights? That is not a problem with this recipe. You can finish cooking this in under 30 minutes!

What is β€œbeef and shells”?

It refers to this dish made with short pasta and seasoned ground beef in a sauce that is both tomato-based and dairy-based.

In this recipe, we are also adding in heavy cream and sour cream aside from the cheddar cheese while others add in cheese only. This makes this dish creamier overall.

How do you make beef and shells?

  1. Cook the pasta: Follow the instructions on the packaging.
  2. SautΓ© the meat: In a skillet, brown the ground beef, drain the excess fat, then, set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: In the same large skillet, sautΓ© onion and garlic. Stir in the flour for about a minute. Slowly stir in the stock, marinara sauce, and the herbs and seasonings. Let the whole thing boil and thicken.
  4. Combine: Add in the pasta, meat, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Then, add in the sour cream and cheese.
  5. Serve: Once the cheese has melted, serve it while hot!

Can i use different ground meat?

Sure! You can replace the beef with other meat like chicken or turkey.

Do you need to discard beef grease?

The answer is both yes and no. You will be throwing away flavor along with the grease when you discard it. So, there are two answers to this question.

Yes, if you used the kind that has too much fat. Too much grease is not desirable so you need to discard it.

And no, if you used extra lean meat. There is not much grease that will develop, so you can keep that tiny amount and not discard it.

Hence, I strongly recommend that you use extra lean meat for this one as it would be more flavorful. And since this dish has sauce, do not worry about it getting too dry.

What can be used in place of marinara sauce?

It is a simple sauce made with tomatoes and some aromatics like onion, garlic, and some seasonings. For this dish, you can simply substitute it with tomato sauce and probably add more of the aromatics and seasonings.

How to store creamy beef and shells:

  • Refrigerate: Let it cool completely and transfer it to an airtight container before putting it in the fridge. Consume it within 3 days. You can simply reheat it on the stove.
  • Freeze: You can freeze this for a few weeks, simply thaw completely before reheating. This way, when you reheat, you will not be breaking the pasta into pieces.
  • Make-Ahead: You can freeze the sauce and simply add cooked pasta on the day you want to serve it. You can also pre-cook the pasta and freeze it. Before freezing, remember to drizzle some oil to prevent sticking.

Recipe tips:

  • You can choose from penne, elbow macaroni, or rotini as a substitute for the shells.
  • To prevent the pasta from being soggy, you can cook it just al dente so that when you combine it with the sauce, further cooking will not make it too mushy.
  • You can vegetables like bell peppers and carrots.


  • 8 ounces  medium pasta shells 
  • 1 tablespoon  olive oil 
  • 1 pound  ground beef 
  • 1  small sweet onion  (diced)
  • 5 cloves  garlic  (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon  Italian seasoning 
  • 1 teaspoon  dried parsley 
  • 1/2 teaspoon  dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon  smoked paprika 
  • 2 tablespoons  all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup  beef stock 
  • 1 (15oz can)   marinara sauce 
  • 3/4 cup  heavy cream 
  • 1/4 cup  sour cream 
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper  (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups  cheddar cheese  (freshly grated)


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions in a large pot of boiling salted water and drain well.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, breaking it with a wooden spoon. Drain excess fat and set aside.
  3. To the same skillet, add diced onion, and cook for 2minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, for about 1 minute.
  5. Gradually whisk in beef stock and stir to combine. Add marinara sauce and stir in Italian seasoning, dried parsley, oregano, and paprika.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
  7. Stir in cooked pasta, add back beef.
  8. Stir in heavy cream until heated through, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  9. Stir in sour cream.
  10. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted, about 1-2 minutes.
  11. Serve immediately, garnish with parsley if desired.


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