Slow Cooker Creamy Beef and Shells

This quick and easy dinner made of ground beef, tomatoes, tomato sauce and creamy, cheesy shells was a love at first bite for my family! The simple combination of creamy and saucy makes a hearty comfort food that keeps me going for seconds and thirds! Some sides you can add to pair with these slow cooker beef and shells are smoky creamed corn, garlic pretzel knots or a fresh tossed salad with homemade dressing.

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Creamy beef and shells slow cooker

Creamy beef and shells (slow cooker)

This hearty dinner of beef and shells in lots of cheesy sauce is a yummy, quick and easy option to add to your meal rotation!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 7 quart slow cooker (linked below)
  • Cutting board (linked below)
  • Chef's knife (linked below)
  • Measuring cup (linked below)


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup diced onion yellow or white
  • 3 garlic cloves minced *see note
  • 2 cups fresh tomato chunks finely chopped/diced
  • 3 cups marinara sauce 24 ounces
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper (to taste) *see note.
  • 2 cups dry pasta shells or macaroni
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided (optional)


  • Brown the ground beef, then place into the bottom of a 6-7 quart slow cooker along with onions, garlic, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, and pasta or marinara sauce.
  • Cover and cook the beef, veggies and sauce mixture on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, then add to the cooked beef and sauce mixture along with heavy cream and half of the shredded cheese. Stir gently to combine, then top with remaining cheese. Cover and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes on low to allow the cheese to melt. Cool slightly and enjoy!


If you do not have fresh garlic on hand you can substitute by adding extra garlic powder. If you do not enjoy the flavor of garlic, you can omit the minced garlic and garlic powder entirely. 
I generally add 3/4-1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 
More notes and step by step photos below. 
Keyword Creamy, beef, shells, slow cooker
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Equipment needed for these creamy beef and shells:

  • 7 quart slow cooker A 6-7 quart slow cooker is needed to slow cook the beef, sauce and veggies together, which bring out the best flavor in this creamy beef and noodle dish. If using a smaller slow cooker, you may need to adjust the time needed to slow cook the beef and shells.
  • Cutting board I prefer to use a plastic and dish washer friendly, cutting board for chopping the fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic in this recipe.
  • Chef’s Knife A larger Chef’s knife makes the chopping process so much easier too!
  • Measuring cups Measuring cups are needed to measure the amounts of the veggies and sauce before adding them to the beef mixture in the slow cooker.

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Ingredients needed for these creamy, slow cooker beef and shells: Marinara sauce, dry pasta shells, shredded cheese, garlic, ground beef, garlic powder, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, diced onion, tomatoes and heavy cream.


You can use any type of small pasta in this beef and shells dish. Macaroni, Penne and Rotini are all great options if that is what you have on hand!

Step 1: Combine the beef, veggies, seasonings and sauce in a large slow cooker.

Optional add-ins: You can also add a 4 oz. can of mushroom pieces to the sauce mixture. Frozen sweet peas can be added at the last hour of slow cooking if you wish to add extra veggies into the dish. Feel free to add more cream or cheese, or to adjust the seasonings to taste.

Step 2-3: Cover and cook the beef and veggie mixture as directed in the recipe, then add cooked pasta, heavy cream and half of the shredded cheese. Stir gently to combine.


You can also simply toss the dry pasta into the crockpot at the last 30-60 minutes of cooking. I have had trouble with the pasta cooking unevenly or becoming mushy, so it is my personal preference to cook it separately in boiling, salted water before adding it to the crockpot.

Step 3 continued: Top the creamy shells and beef with the remaining shredded cheese, then cover and allow the cheese to melt before serving.


You can also mix and match with the shredded cheese. Italian style and shredded mozzarella are my top picks, but any of your favorite shredded cheeses will also work in this creamy beef and shells dish.

Feel free to pin for later and don’t forget to rate the recipe in the recipe card! If you enjoy photographing your kitchen creations be sure to tag me on Instagram to show it off!

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