No Need to Boil Pasta with This Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce Recipe
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Love Instant Pot meals the whole family can enjoy?
You’ve gotta check out these insanely delicious cheesy stuffed shells with meat sauce that you can make entirely in an Instant Pot! Yep, there’s no boiling the noodles first, which saves a step and makes this meal super smart and efficient. More importantly, this is possibly the best-tasting meal I’ve ever made using my Instant Pot pressure cooker, which makes me even more excited to share it with you!
Hip Tip: Don’t own an Instant Pot? Keep reading for slow cooker instructions.
Easy to find pantry ingredients are the BEST!
Yep, there’s nothing super fancy or over the top expensive here. We’re simply using traditional stuffed shells or common lasagna ingredients. Grab a jar of spaghetti or marinara sauce your family prefers and a box of the jumbo stuffed shells. I used the entire box of dried shells, and it all fit nicely in my 6-quart Instant Pot.
We used ground beef for a meat sauce, and next time I’d like to maybe try making this with ground sausage – yum! If you prefer a meatless dish, I’m confident you could just leave that step off and follow through with the rest of the process.
Using three types of cheese creates the ultimate cheese-fest you’re gonna love. I definitely prefer the richer whole milk ricotta texture to skim, but that’s up to you. Try using cream cheese if you’re not a ricotta fan. I added spinach to my cheese mixture and that was yummy, too, but optional.
Hip Tip: An easy way to get all the moisture out of frozen spinach is to defrost it, then press it against a small colander using another bowl or your hand to drain moisture.
Stuffing the shells takes a little time and patience.
For this reason, I’m not suggesting this as the fastest weeknight meal to prepare after you’ve worked all day and have been to multiple kids sports practices or games. LOL It’s a fairly straightforward recipe idea and worth the extra bit of effort to fill those shells – I promise, the results will be so TASTY! You could even fill your shells a day beforehand as a prep ahead idea.
For the jumbo shells, I honestly do NOT recommend this Market Pantry brand from Target that I used, as many of them were closed up super tightly, which made them a tad more tedious to fill. I have heard that the Barilla brand jumbo shells are great. (I also read later that running tightly-closed shells under warm water for a bit will soften them.)
Hip Tip: Place cheese filling inside a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and cut one end to use it like a squeezable pastry bag to fill shells.
After filling the shells, brown the meat at the bottom of the Instant Pot. Then stack all the stuffed cheese shells on top of the meat. Pour water and then the jar of sauce over the top of the shells, and seal the lid for cooking.
Once finished, top with the remaining cheese and cover with the lid again for about five minutes to let it melt (the noodles will soak up the remaining liquid nicely).
Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
yield: 8 SERVINGS
prep time: 40 MINUTES
cook time: 8 MINUTES
total time: 48 MINUTES
This Instant Pot meal features delicious cheese and spinach filled shells with a hearty marinara meat sauce prepared using just one pot!
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese
- 10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
- 1 egg
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shedded
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 12 oz. jumbo shells, uncooked
- 2 cups water
- 25 oz. jar of marinara or spaghetti sauce
- fresh basil and crushed red pepper flakes for garnish
To a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, and 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Place the mixture in a one-gallon storage bag or pastry bag to pipe the filling into the shells.
Place the uncooked shells on a platter or baking tray. Snip the corner of a storage bag, and then pipe the cheese mixture into each shell.
Set the Instant Pot on Saute mode and add the ground beef to the bottom. Season with garlic, onion flakes, salt, and pepper. Brown and drain the grease from the meat if needed. Scrape down the bottom of the pot to make sure there are no bits stuck to the bottom. This is so important or your Instant Pot may not come to pressure properly.
Place the stuffed shells on top of the meat. Pour water on top of the shells. Finally, pour the jar of sauce over the shells, making sure to cover the top entirely with sauce.
Close and seal lid. Turn Instant Pot to Manual or High mode and set to 8 minutes.
Once cook time is done, carefully quick release the pressure using the back of a wooden spoon or kitchen utensil.
Open the lid and sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese over the top of the noodles. Don't be alarmed as it may look watery, but it won't for long. Close the lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Open the lid and gently stir to combine meat from the bottom with shells and cheese.
Serve warm with fresh basil and extra parmesan cheese if desired. Enjoy!
Serious comfort food ahead!
Oh man, this was so good. One can never go wrong with all that gooey melted cheese and a hearty sauce! My kids had seconds, and they’re tough critics when it comes to Instant Pot meals. This recipe also makes a generous amount of food if you have a larger family. The leftovers were great warmed up again for lunch the next day.
This Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce recipe was such a winner for us!
Slow Cooker instructions:
While I haven’t made this in the slow cooker yet, others have had great success with this recipe! Brown meat on the stove first, and follow the rest of the directions – except slow cook on low for 4-5 hours until pasta is cooked and tender. I did notice that most slow cooker stuffed shell recipes call for two jars of marinara sauce.
If you don’t put meat in it, do you have to preheat the Instant Pot before putting the shells in there?
no – just skip the saute step all together and place stuffed noodles in the IP.
If you want an even easier pasta meal try ravioli lasagna! You use frozen ravioli without boiling them first. Saves the stuffing step as well.
Ok so I am trying to make this recipie and following the exact direction. My shells were not cooked after 8 mins then I added 7 more mins since it was pretty raw. I was really expecting the shells to be done after 7 more mins. No luck. Now I have added 6 more mins. I do have a bigger instant pot so maybe it needs more time. Or maybe my shells are not good ones (MP shells).
Darn so odd – I did 8 minutes and quick release. (Well the Pot takes about 15 minutes to come to pressure then it counts down.) Hmm.. so sorry that’s happening! So your IP is coming to pressure?
I have this happen sometimes with my instantpot. One of two things is wrong. Either the lid is not sealing properly. You need to take it all apart and clean the lid, especially the filter at the top. Reinsert the seal too and make sure it is in there snugly. The other issue can be that there is not enough liquid in the dish. The larger pots require more liquid. Just add a little extra water to the sauce and you should be good.
How much water are you adding? Submerging the shells completely? And then the sauce? Or water and sauce combined to submerge the shells?
Hi Gina – it’s 2 cups water as listed in ingredients. You don’t have to submerge shells just pour in water after placing shells in IP. Then pour sauce over the top, as stated in directions. Thanks!!
This turned out really well! I used Great Value Jumbo shells. All but a few were open and easy to fill. I ran out of the cheese mixture before I got to the closed ones, so I just dumped those on top. Thanks so much for the recipe!
That’s such great news!! I’m so glad 🙌
This made plenty for our family of 6 (including two teens). Most of the family liked it, and I used the Barilla shells. Most of the shells were sufficiently open that I could fill them pretty easily. This was a win—thanks!
That’s so great! Thanks Laura!
I’m going to give this a try. Thanks.
You are welcome! Let us know what you think, Lulu!
I don’t have an instant pot but will try it in my crock pot. Sounds delicious. I still use my mothers old crock pot and old pressure cooker. Not sure I want to buy a new one since I already know how to use these.
I have to use tomato sauce because my brother refuses to eat the pasta sauces in jars. They list tomato pieces in the ingredients and he won’t eat tomato pieces (same with pizza, I have to read the ingredients believe me he will read them and if he can’t he won’t eat it) but I just say that is why he is on disability and go on. No use in fighting cause you can never win when they are challenged.
Can you skip the egg?
Gina—hope you see this… wondering if you tried it without the egg? Egg allergy at our house… also wondering if you found shells without egg or egg cc?
Got a burn notice switched inner liner and contents and still got burn notice…finished in the oven.
Any idea why we got the burn notice there was plenty if liquid and it was thin not thick?
Same. I even clean my pot after I brown my meat to ensure I don’t get a burn notice. This was a complete waste.
I’ve made this 3 times and got a burn notification twice. I figured out adding/mixing some of the water and sauce to the meat before adding the shells helps.
Oh thanks for sharing Trish!
Can I double this recipe in a 8quart instant pot?
I made this recipe (but added 1 lb of ground beef into the mixture for the shells) and it was really good! My husband loved it!
Thank you so much!!
Oh yay! Thank you for sharing!
I’m going to try this tonight!!!
Do I have to make any adjustments if making this in an 8 quart instant pot?
All of the filling came out of the shells when it cooked:( It was like soup for the longest time, but it thickened with the lid on, and an extra 45 minutes in the pot.
I don’t think I’ll make this again.