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Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells

This Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells recipe has become one of our favorite weeknight dinner meals. Cooked ground beef tossed in a creamy pasta sauce with pasta shells and then topped with cheese for a dinner that even the pickiest eater will love!

It is an easy to prepare recipe that involves very little preparation. Simply start the crock pot in the morning and when you are ready to eat, dinner is ready!

To save even more time you can brown the ground beef up to 3 days in advance. Then in the morning all you have to do is dump everything in the slow cooker and dinner is ready to cook in minutes!

slow cooker creamy beef and shells
Creamy Beef and Shells made in a slow cooker for the perfect family friendly meal!

Once it is ready serve it with a side salad and garlic bread knots for a complete dinner that will make you feel full and satisfied. It is the perfect dinner recipe for busy weeknights, especially during those cold winter months.

I think we can all agree that this time of year we all could use an easy to make dinner recipe to feed the family. As much as I love Pizza Casserole, BBQ Cheeseburger Casserole, and Chicken Spaghetti Casserole, there are just some days when it is easier to make dinner in a slow cooker.

The Benefits Of A Programmable Crock Pot

And it is even more convenient if you have a programmable slow cooker like our 6 quart Crock Pot brand! You set the timer for the length of time that you want your food to cook.

Then when the cook time expires it automatically switches to a keep warm function so that there is no worries of your food over cooking. This comes in handy when the cook time is less for when you plan to be back home.

For instance, this creamy beef and shells recipe requires a cook time of 6 hours on low heat before proceeding to the next step. However, if you have to work for 8 hours, what are you suppose to do?

Luckily, this recipe can actually cook longer than 6 hours on low if needed. The shells may be more tender, but the flavor is still delicious.

However with a programmable crock pot I can set the cook time for 6 hours and then it will continue to stay on warm until everyone gets home.

Then we can add the final ingredients and move on to our other nightly chores. Once everyone gets settled, dinner is ready!

ground beef in crock pot
It is best to brown the ground beef before it goes into the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells Recipe

*Specific measurements and complete recipe instructions are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to continue to read the tips and tricks to making this recipe below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups pasta, shells or any pasta
  • 24 oz pasta sauce
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

The base to this creamy beef and shells recipe starts with ground beef. However if you want to add more flavor you could use ground sausage instead of the beef.

Although, if you don’t eat red meat or want to lower the calorie content you could substitute ground turkey or chicken instead. And if you eat a vegetarian diet you can certainly use plant-based crumbles as a substitute.

pasta shells in slow cooker
We love to use pasta shells for this recipe as it scoops up the other ingredients into the well. However, you can use whatever pasta that you would like.

No matter what type of protein that you choose you must cook it before it goes into the slow cooker. Place a medium size skillet over medium high heat.

If you are using standard ground beef, you may need to add any oil to the pan. However be sure to add a little oil to the pan if you are using lean ground beef or a lean meat substitute.

Continue to cook until the meat is no longer pink and cooked through. Drain the meat mixture and then add it to a slow cooker. Then add the onions and garlic to the meat and stir.

Optional Step

*You can saute your onions and garlic in the same skillet that you browned your meat if you prefer. Sautéing the onions and garlic before they go into the slow cooker will add a little more robust flavor to the creamy beef and shells.

However it isn’t absolutely necessary. If you already have cooked ground beef in the refrigerator from meal prepping you can simply add the cold, cooked ground beef to the slow cooker and proceed with the recipe.

Once the ground beef, onion and garlic are in the crock pot add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, beef broth, and spices and stir.

Cook on LOW for 6 hours or on HIGH power for 3-4 hours.

pasta shells in creamy sauce
After 6 hours of cooking on low, add the pasta, heavy cream and 1/2 of the cheese.

After 6 Hours of Cooking on Low

Once the initial cook time is up, stir the mixture and stir in the pasta shells. Then add half of the Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until well incorporated.

Next, stir in the heavy cream so that this recipe becomes a true Creamy Beef and Shells dinner.

However, if you don’t have heavy cream, feel free to add in a little milk, half and half, or omit it all together. You could even add in more cheese if you prefer!

The important step here is to make sure that the pasta shells are submerged in the mixture. This will allow the pasta to cook all the way through. And yes, if you don’t have pasta shells, you can substitute any pasta that you prefer.

cheesy topping in crock pot
Serve with the cheese on top has melted and begins to brown along the edges.

Top the mixture with the remaining Mozzarella cheese and cook on LOW power for 1 hour or until the cheese is nice and melted and the pasta is tender.

Serve warm. We like to serve this Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells recipe with a little side salad and garlic bread to make it a complete meal.

Refrigerate any leftovers. It makes for a great take to work or school lunch the next day!

Enjoy! Mary

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Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells

slow cooker creamy beef and shells featured

Creamy ground beef and pasta shells cooked in a slow cooker and topped with cheese, for an easy to make, family favorite meal.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 7 hours
Total Time 7 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups pasta, shells or any pasta
  • 24 oz pasta sauce
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Instructions

  1. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Cook ground beef until it is no longer pink, drain. Place drained ground beef into the slow cooker.
  2. Add diced onions and minced garlic to the ground beef and stir.
  3. Add the jar of pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, broth, salt, pepper and broth. Stir.
  4. Cook on low heat for 6 hours.
  5. Stir the mixture and add the pasta, heavy cream, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and stir. Be sure that the pasta noodles are submerged in the mixture.
  6. Top with the remaining 1/2 mozzarella cheese and cook for another hour or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

You can shorten the cook time by mixing in cooked pasta at the end of the 6 hours. Stir in the pasta and cheese and one the cheese melts you are ready to serve dinner.

Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1 grams

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 1164mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 26g

Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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