You Should Make Creamy Beef and Shells for Dinner ASAP

A one-pot dinner makes weeknights a breeze, but a one-pot dinner that makes creamy, cheesy, beefy pasta? Well that’s just pure joy. If you grew up loving Hamburger Helper, you’re going to love this quick from-scratch version of cheesy beef and shells.

The whole thing couldn’t be easier. You’ll season and brown ground beef; add pasta shells, savory beef broth, and tangy tomato sauce; and then finish off the whole skillet with a little cream and a lot of cheese.

Give Beef and Shells the One-Pot Pasta Treatment

If you’ve ever made a one-pot pasta, you know that cooking the pasta directly in the sauce is a shortcut to creaminess, because as it cooks the pasta releases starch that thickens the cooking liquid. In this beefy version, we’re upping the creaminess factor by finishing the dish with a bit of cream. You can use half-and-half in a pinch, but we prefer heavy cream — it has more fat and doesn’t curdle in the acidic tomato sauce (expect a slightly grainy sauce with half-and-half).

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As for the cheese, sharp white cheddar is our favorite — but Colby Jack and mild cheddar also work well. Whatever you do, don’t skimp!

Easy, Creamy Beef and Shells


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion power

  • 2 cups

    beef broth

  • 8 ounces

    dried pasta shells

  • 8 ounces

    sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream or half-and-half


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound lean ground beef and cook until cooked through and browned. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. 

  2. Stir in 2 cups beef broth, 8 ounces dried pasta shells, and 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce. Cover and cook until the shells are tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, shred 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups).

  3. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half and 2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar until the cheese is melted.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

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