Instant Pot Pasta Shells and Beef

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Could this Instant Pot Pasta Shells and Beef be the perfect one-pot dinner? With savory ground beef, tender shell pasta, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and mozzarella, it just might be! 

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A serving dish filled with cooked pasta shells and ground beef in tomato sauce, topped with melted mozzarella.

One-Pot Pasta and Ground Beef in Tomato Sauce

Okay, confession time: I adore copycat recipes. It’s so satisfying to take a beloved dish like your favorite takeout recipe or a boxed dinner, and make a homemade version that’s just as tasty, but much better for you! Bonus points for a) fast and b) easy.

This recipe for Instant Pot Pasta Shells and Beef is similar to your typical boxed pasta dinner, but much better. The flavor is brighter and fresher, and the ingredients are wholesome and simple.

With hearty chunks of browned hamburger, al dente pasta shells, and a flavorful homemade tomato sauce, all it needs is a little bit of melted mozzarella on top. Kids and grownups alike will gobble this one up!

And, to top it all off (besides the mozzarella, of course), this easy recipe comes together in a snap, thanks to the Instant Pot. It’s a cozy, family-friendly one-pot dinner, and once you’ve tried it, I guarantee it’ll be on your menu week after week!

Clockwise from top: Water, dry pasta, beef broth, garlic, ground beef, olive oil, seasonings, canned tomatoes.

What You’ll Need

Everything in this list is a basic pantry staple. That makes this dish extra convenient, especially for busy weeknights!

  • Ground Beef: I like to use lean ground beef for this recipe, but ground chuck is also great and very flavorful.
  • Olive Oil: You’ll need a tablespoon or so of oil, for sauteing.
  • Garlic: Mince or press two to three cloves of fresh garlic, or substitute a little over half a teaspoon of garlic powder.
  • Italian Seasoning: This versatile blend gives you flavor, fast! 
  • Crushed Tomatoes: I use one large can or box (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes. 
  • Broth and Water: To help the pasta cook up tender, you’ll need two cups of water and one cup of beef broth. You can also use all broth, or all water, if you prefer!
  • Shells: Have ready 1 pound of your favorite uncooked shell pasta.
  • Onion Powder: Onion powder gives this recipe a cozy and familiar flavor.
  • Mozzarella: For my cheesy beef and shells, I use a cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, but you could substitute any good melting cheese that you like. 
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste.
An overhead shot of an Instant Pot with crushed tomatoes, water, pasta, and seasonings inside.

How to Make Instant Pot Pasta Shells and Beef

To make this recipe, you first cook the beef using the “Sauté” function and then pressure cook the remaining ingredients for just a few minutes. Super simple!

  1. Brown the Ground Beef. Drizzle olive oil into the inner pot of your Instant Pot, and set to “Saute.” Add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, and minced garlic, and saute everything until the beef is completely browned, breaking it up as you go with a wooden utensil or spatula. Then place the browned ground beef in an additional bowl, and set it aside.
  2. Cook the Remaining Ingredients. Pour the crushed tomatoes, water, broth, shell pasta, and onion powder in the Instant Pot. Stir well, and place the lid on the pot. Lock the lid into place, set the venting valve to “sealed,” and pressure cook on high for 8 minutes.
  3. Finish the Dish. Once the time is up, do a quick release of the pressure by sliding the venting valve. Be careful not to burn yourself with the steam! When the pressure has fully released, remove the Instant Pot lid and give everything a good stir. Add the cooked ground beef to the pot, and stir again. Add the salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Enjoy! When ready to serve, scoop the beef and shells into bowls, and garnish with mozzarella cheese.
An overhead shot of an Instant Pot with cooked shells in sauce inside and a batch of browned ground beef added.

Can I use frozen ground beef?

Yes, you can! It will take a bit longer, though. Here’s how:

  1. Place a cup and a half of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Place the frozen ground beef on a trivet in the Instant Pot. Lock the lid into place.
  2. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes, followed by a quick release of the pressure.
  3. When the pressure is fully released, remove the lid and carefully transfer the meat to a plate. Using oven mitts, lift the inner pot out of the Instant Pot and drain the water and grease.
  4. Proceed with the recipe as written (you don’t have to sauté the beef, since it’s already cooked; just warm it for a minute or two with the seasonings and oil.)

Tips for Success

Instant Pot ground beef and pasta shells is a fantastically easy recipe. But, I still have a few tips to help make it the best it can be! Happy cooking!

  • Drain the Grease: When you finish browning the ground beef, if the amount of grease seems to be excessive, drain it off into another bowl, let it cool, and throw it away. Never wash grease down the sink because it can cause clogged pipes.
  • Extra-Creamy: The sprinkle of mozzarella on this dish makes a nice, melty topping. But if you’d like the actual shells to be creamier, feel free to stir in extra cheese, some cream cheese, or just a bit of heavy whipping cream.
  • Peas, Please: Get some veggies going by adding a cup or two of frozen mixed veggies, frozen peas, or frozen corn to the Instant Pot before pressure cooking.
a serving of Instant Pot pasta shells and beef in tomato sauce, topped with melted mozzarella.

Serving Suggestions

This is definitely a complete meal as-is. But, if you want to add a couple of sides to round out the menu, here are some tasty options that work well with pasta and beef.

  • Grilled Veggies: When I’m not grilling out, I like to whip up these easy Grilled Summer Squash Kebabs on a grill pan on the stovetop! No matter how you slice it (see what I did there?) they’re a delicious and healthy side that goes with everything.
  • Biscuits: Biscuits are the ultimate quick-bread, and these easy Air Fryer Red Lobster Biscuits are extra-delicious thanks to the combination of garlic, cheddar, and herbs.
  • Garlic Butter Green Beans: Classic green beans are super easy to make in a skillet! This recipe for Sauteed Garlic Butter Green Beans will wow the family and round out the menu to perfection.
A serving dish filled with cooked pasta shells and ground beef in tomato sauce, topped with melted mozzarella.

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

  • To refrigerate, place leftovers into airtight food storage containers and store in the fridge for up to four days.
  • To reheat, place in a covered skillet or saucepan with a splash of water. Cook on low heat, stirring often until heated through.

Instant Pot Pasta Shells and Beef

This easy Instant Pot dinner features savory ground beef, tender pasta, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and mozzarella cheese.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic,, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 16 ounces pasta shells
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper,, to taste
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  • In the bottom of the Instant Pot, drizzle the olive oil and set the IP to “Saute.”
    Add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, and minced garlic. Saute until the beef is browned, breaking it up occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Transfer browned beef to a bowl, cover and set aside.
  • In the same Instant Pot inner pot, place the crushed tomatoes, water, broth, pasta, and onion powder. Stir, and place the lid on the pot.
  • Lock the lid into place. Set the venting valve to “Sealed.” Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes.
  • Do a quick release, and when the pressure has fully released, open the Instant Pot.
    Stir previously cooked ground beef into the pasta.
    Add salt and pepper; taste and adjust accordingly.
  • Spoon pasta and beef into serving bowls and top with mozzarella cheese.
  • Serve.


Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 375mg | Potassium: 658mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 321IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 140mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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  1. Megs says:

    Hi Katerina!
    Do you have stove-top or oven instructions for this delicious looking recipe please – my Instant Pot is on loan to a friend in lockdown.

  2. Charlene says:

    I don’t have an instant pot but I figure I can do this on top of the stove. Will try it, it looks delicious.

  3. Angi says:

    This does not look like the picture at all. Super watery too but it tastes ok. I added sour cream and cream cheese to thicken it up and helped the blandness too.