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Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Classic stuffed shells get an Instant Pot makeover! No need to pre-cook the pasta means no dirtying extra pot. And instead of spooning the filling into the shells, put the filling into a piping bag (or a ziplock bag) and pipe into the shells. It’s so much faster that way.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 15oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups (1lb) mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 8oz conchiglioni pasta/ jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (24oz) jar pasta sauce of your choice

Directions:

  1. To brown the meat: set the Instant Pot to Sauté.
  2. When the display reads “HOT”, add ground beef, salt and seasonings and brown the meat, breaking it apart, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. To make the cheese filling: while meat is browning, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and 3 cups of mozzarella cheese. Mix well and transfer the mixture in a piping bag with a round tip (or a ziplock bag with one corner cut).
  4. Fill the pasta shells with the cheese mixture.
  5. Once the meat is browned, drain, if needed, and spread it evenly in the bottom of the pan. (Note: deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of water if there is any bits and pieces are stuck to the pan.)
  6. To assemble: layer the filled pasta shells over the meat.
  7. Pour water and then pasta sauce over the pasta. Do NOT stir.
  8. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to “sealing”.
  9. Set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook/Manual for 8 minutes on high. (NOTE: It took 20-24 minutes for my IP to come to pressure.)
  10. Do quick release by carefully turning the valve to venting. And carefully open the lid.
  11. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and close the lid. Let it sit for about 3 minutes and then open the lid. Stir gently and serve.If you tried this recipe, I’d love to read your feedback. Please leave your comment and rating below, or share on Instagram with #busycooks and tag us @busy_cooks. Thank you!!

Nutrition Information

Yield: 8 servings, Serving Size: 1 serving

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 413 Calories
  • Total Fat: 12.7g
  • Cholesterol: 99.7mg
  • Sodium: 1248.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 31g
  • Sugar: 5.9g
  • Protein: 44.1g
Disclaimer: Nutritional information is estimate only. Read full disclosure here.
All images and text © for Busy Cooks
Scroll down to read more tips and story behind the recipe

Less than 1 hour to make these satisfying stuffed shells from start to finish. And it’ll actually take about 15 minutes tops of your time. The rest is just a waiting game!

Speedy tips for quickest stuffed shells:

  1. Multi-task! Start with browning the ground beef. And while the meat is cooking, which will take about 10 minutes, work on ricotta filling and pasta. But make sure to quickly stir meat a few times.
  2. Good quality pasta sauce. I love Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce. 
  3. No need to par-cook the pasta shells, which not only saves you time, but also one less pot to clean! 
  4. Use a piping bag (or a ziplock bag with one corner cut) to fill the pasta shells with ricotta filling. It’s so much faster than spooning the filling into each shell.

You can’t wrong with classic ricotta cheese filling! It’s a classic for a reason. Simple, flavorful and oh-so-creamy! 

Classic ricotta filling is simple and delicious!

And here are step by step photos to show you how to assemble the dish in an Instant Pot.

This recipe is tested in 6qt Instant Pot.

Final step: give it a good stir before serving! All the meat is on the bottom, so you want to gently stir from top to bottom and back to top. 🙂 Enjoy!

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62 comments on “Instant Pot Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce”

  1. I’m a vegetarian so I didn’t use any meat so I didn’t think I would need to deglaze anything. I followed the recipe otherwise to the letter.  Unfortunately I got  the dreaded FOOD BURN message like the others. What can I do next time? 

  2. I made this recipe with the exact same cooking instructions but added more seasonings to the cheese and used 2 lbs of meat. It turned out perfect!!! The only thing I didn’t like was by stirring it up some of the shells lost their filling but it still tastes great. 

    Rating: 5
  3. I followed the recipe exactly as written. It was wonderful. Very tasty. The finished product was a little soupy for my taste but definitely edible. I can’t wait to take the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. 

    Rating: 5
  4. Followed recipe exactly as written but in an 8 qt IP and everything turned out perfect. Excellent recipe for a fast weeknight meal. Roasted broccoli while IP came to pressure and cooked and the timing was perfect.

    Rating: 5
  5. We loved this recipe. Added 2 minutes to cooking time, total 10 minutes with 5 minute natural release which was perfect.

    Rating: 5
  6. Omg this was Sooo tasty!!! Love that I didn’t have to cook the shells first. Devoutly a simple recipe but definitely will have you coming back for more servings!

    Rating: 5
  7. I wish I had read others comments because I too got the “burn” notice and was unable to finish the dish. The ground beef was so burnt on the bottom , I had to soak overnight. There was so much liquid in the pot that the shells were swimming in a soup which cause the cheese to fall out of the shells. I have no idea where I went wrong in the recipe but I’ll be sticking with the old fashioned way of making stuffed shells. 

    Rating: 1
    • Oh no, it’s so frustrating to get that dreaded “burn” notice! I totally understand your frustration, GEMcCowin! It’s very important to completely deglaze the pan in step 5, or there’s a chance to get “burn” notice.

  8. PURE COMFORT FOOD. I had too much filling left and when I came back here and watched the video, I realized you heaped it up. I couldn’t use the ziploc bag and found it easier to do it by hand, but only filled them to the rim of the shells. Next time I”d probably fill them the same as it was excellent. I did see a few comments where people said it needed more time. I did it for 10 minutes and it was perfect for me. Thanks for sharing.

    Rating: 5
  9. I saw this post on a Facebook Instant Pot page, decided to give it a try. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Easy & clear step my step instructions. I will definitely be cooking more meals of this site!

    Rating: 5
  10. Delish recipe! Pasta shells were a little more al dente then expected but still absolutely yummo. I added peas at the end!

    Rating: 5
  11. I was wondering if you could make this without the meat? I’m not much of a meat person.

    • Hi, Samantha. I personally haven’t tried this without meat, but you can do stir-fry some vegetables and layer the shells over the veggies. If that doesn’t sound good either, you may try layering the shells over a trivet. The reason I don’t advice putting the shells directly in the pan is that I’m afraid the shells may stick to the bottom and cause “burn” notice. Hope this helps.

  12. Delicious! My only comment to the recipe would be that you need to add a little oil to the bottom of the pan for sautéing the ground beef. My ground beef started to stick and burn at the bottom without it. After adding the oil, it was fine. I also added a little bit of sugar to the dish to give it a hint of sweetness. We loved this dish and I will be making it again. Thank you!

    Rating: 5
    • Thank you so much for your feedback and sharing your notes, Natalie!! You’re totally right. I also use a little bit of olive oil before adding ground beef (especially with lean). I’ll update the recipe.

  13. Excellent!! Will definitely make again soon!

    Rating: 5
  14. I’ve never got a burn notice in my pressure cooker before, but I was unable to finish this dish. Terribly expensive recipe, considering not only ingredients but the fried chicken we had to go get after giving up at 8:30 pm. (And yes, I deglazed the pot and added a bit of oil just to make sure nothing stuck.)

    Rating: 1
    • Hi, Andrea. Sorry to hear your trouble with dinner. Hope you didn’t stir and let the pasta sauce get to the bottom before cooking. Pasta sauce is considered as thick sauce, and tends to scorch if it gets to the bottom.

  15. Delish! I made this with a few substitutions- I used turkey meat just bc I like it better. And instead of water I used chicken broth. Turned out perfect! Cheesy, creamy, and noodles perfect!

    Rating: 5
  16. I wanted to love this recipe but I think I’m gong to stick with cooking stuffed shells in the oven. A lot of my noodles were closed, so I really couldn’t get the cheese filling in the shell. And this turned out really soupy. Oh well, next time I’ll just cook the noodles in it and then stuff them and bake it in the oven. Fyi I did cook it for 9 minutes just bc I’m at 4500ft altitude. Thanks for recipe!

    Rating: 2
  17. This was so good and very easy. I was really impressed that the shells were cooked to a perfect al dente. Thanks for this recipe!

    Rating: 5
  18. These were easy to make and super yummy!! Thank you so much Shinee!

    Rating: 5
  19. Really good but I ended up having to finish cooking in the oven. This is the first recipe I’ve ever gotten a burn notice on. :/ 

    Rating: 4
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Kelly, despite the extra step. My suggestion for next time: make sure to deglaze the pan well after browning the meat and before adding more ingredients. And add water before adding pasta sauce.

  20. I make this dish all the time in the oven so I’m very eager to try it in the instant pot. It will be so much faster. To be clear, you don’t boil the pasta first? Seems like it would be hard to fill them while they are still hard?
    Thanks for the help😊

    • Hi, Karla. That’s correct, no boiling pasta. If you put the filling in a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag with one corner cut, and pipe the filling into the shells, it’s much easier and faster. Hope you give it a try. Let us know.

  21. Try the pot in pot method, no worries of getting the burn message.  I prefer the PIP method when ever possible.

  22. So good! I used half ground beef and half Italian sausage, and I added fresh chopped tomato at the end. Yum!!

    Rating: 5
  23. I used cottage cheese instead of ricotta, it did not hold up after cooking, All the shells exploded. Note to self, use ricotta cheese next time!

    • Hi, Pam. Thanks for your feedback. What do you mean it didn’t hold up? Do you mean the filling didn’t stay in the shells? Did it got mixed with the sauce when you stirred it? If so, it’s normal for some of the filling to get mixed in with the sauce when you stir everything. I’ve tried this recipe with cottage cheese as well, and it worked fine for me. Let me know if you try it with ricotta cheese though.

  24. This looks so good! I can’t wait to try it. I’ve never had much luck with pasta but I’m excited to try this!

  25. Is this in a 6qt or 8qt? How would you make it in the opposite size? 

  26. Any thoughts on how to make this meatless and not trigger a burn notice? Thanks!

    • Hi, Pamela. I haven’t tested this recipe without meat. But I’ve cooked pasta in my IP without anything on the bottom, so I would suggest layering the stuffed shells on the bottom, pour water first, and then the sauce on top. I *think* that would work. Let me know if you give it a try this way.

  27.  How many will fit in a 6 quart IP?

  28. Made this for my boyfriend and omg. It was SO GOOD. 

    Rating: 5
  29. Came out amazing in half the time of baking with way less mess. Made it exactly as recipe says. Came out perfect. 

    Rating: 5
    • Yay, so happy you loved it, Amanda. Thank you so much for your feedback.

    • I’m so sad this didn’t work I got a burn notice I think the meat sauce was to thick on the bottom and I should have had just water and sauce   I ended up having to cook it in the oven. But I do like the piping bag idea made it super fast 

      Rating: 2
      • Hey, Sara. Sorry to hear yours didn’t work. Did you mix the pasta sauce with the meat before adding the stuffed shells? If so, that’d definitely trigger the “burn” notice. You should only have meat on the bottom, and it’s important to deglaze the pan if there’s anything stuck on the bottom, before adding the stuffed shells. Then water and pasta sauce goes over the shells. Layering in this order is key here. Let me know if this helps. Hope you’ll give it another try. 😉

  30. Very quick and easy to make!! Very filling!! There’s only two of us so there will be plenty of leftovers!! Highly recommend!! 

    Rating: 5
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