You Should Make Creamy Beef and Shells for Dinner Tonight

“Creamy Beef and Shells” is a comforting and savory dish that is perfect for a hearty dinner. This recipe involves cooking pasta shells until al dente, which means they are cooked to be firm to the bite. The dish features ground beef as its main protein, which is browned in a skillet until it’s no longer pink. Key to the dish’s flavor is the sautéing of aromatics like onions and garlic with the beef, which adds a deep, savory undertone.

The creamy aspect comes from a mixture of heavy cream and beef broth, combined with a blend of cheeses, typically including cheddar and cream cheese. This creates a rich and velvety sauce that generously coats the pasta and beef. Spices like paprika, oregano, mustard powder, and red pepper flakes are often added to the sauce for an extra layer of flavor, offering a balance of warmth, spice, and earthiness.

Once the sauce is well-incorporated and has thickened to the right consistency, the cooked pasta shells are stirred in, allowing them to absorb the flavors of the sauce. The dish is often garnished with fresh parsley or basil for a pop of color and a fresh herbal note.

“Creamy Beef and Shells” is a dish that’s both simple and indulgent, offering a balance of rich, meaty flavors with the comforting simplicity of pasta in a creamy sauce. It’s a versatile recipe that can be adjusted to suit different palates, making it a great option for family dinners where taste preferences vary. The dish pairs well with a side of green vegetables or a crisp salad to balance its richness.


1 pound uncooked mild Italian sausage, casings removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 to 3 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 ounces dry O-shaped pasta (2 cups), also known as anelli or anelletti
For serving: Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes


Divide the sausage into 32 (1/2-ounce) portions and roll each one into a tablespoon-sized meatball.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. The meatballs might not be completely cooked at this point. Transfer to a plate.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomatoes, 2 cups of the water or broth, vinegar, sugar, and oregano. Stir in the pasta and meatballs, along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente and the meatballs are cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes, adding more water or broth as needed if you want a soupier consistency. Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes, if desired.

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