Instant Pot Stuffed Shells—jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with a beefy cheesy mixture and smothered in marinara sauce.
Related: SLOW COOKER stuffed shells recipe
Instant Pot Stuffed Shells
These stuffed shells have great flavor! My son ate and ate and ate them until he couldn’t eat anymore.
I tried this recipe with two different methods. The first method was to cook uncooked pasta shells directly in the Instant Pot with a marinara sauce. The second method was to cook already boiled pasta shells using the pot-in-pot method.
There are pros and cons to each method. For method 1 you don’t have to boil the pasta noodles. You just stuff the uncooked shells and cook directly inside the pot for only 4 minutes. The cons are that the hard pasta shells are a little hard to stuff. Plus some of the filling escapes the shells when you pressure cook.
How come the burn message doesn’t come on? You might be thinking marinara sauce straight in the bottom of an Instant Pot is a sure-fire way to get the dreaded burn notice. Well I read on Rootitoot this amazing idea and it totally worked…
Thick Sauces Without the Burn Warning
“Here’s how to avoid that dreaded BURN warning when cooking thick, tomato-based sauces like spaghetti sauce and chili.
A little while ago, my son phoned me to say he got the Burn warning while cooking my spaghetti sauce. He loves that sauce; we all do.
“Mom, help! My pot says ‘Burn.’ What should I do?” I gave him the standard “deglaze the pot” thing, but it got me thinking. And a few minutes later, a light bulb went off in my head.
Of COURSE, it burns. It’s a tomato-based sauce just sitting still on a hot element. I wouldn’t dream of putting a sauce like that together, setting it on a hot stove and just walking away to let it heat for 15 minutes without stirring. Neither would you, right? That’s essentially what’s happening inside the Instant Pot. Once a sauce reaches the boil, it virtually stirs itself, but until then, it will likely burn without stirring. But with this method, as long as a sauce has enough liquid to produce the necessary steam, it’ll work without having to water it down.
For these thick sauces, the trick is to brown the meat/vegetables on Saute as you would on the stove, add the other ingredients and be sure to scrape any browned bits off the bottom. Then…the KEY: bring it to a full boil using the Saute function, stirring frequently. Only then do you close the lid and cook under pressure.
When you do close that pot, it will come to pressure within a minute or two so it won’t have time to burn.
So, I phoned my son back and told him what to do. And it worked. He used Saute to bring the spaghetti sauce to a boil and then closed the pot to pressure cook it. It has worked for me ever since. Problem solved.” (from the Rootitoot website)
For method 2 the pasta shells are easier to stuff because they are boiled and pliable. They are cooked using the pot-in-pot method for 15 minutes. The shells retain their filling better when using this method.
So choose the method that you like best and go for it! These shells are the bomb diggity. They are my kids new favorite food!
What Equipment Do I Need?
I used my 6 quart Instant Pot Duo 60 7 in 1*. The 8 quart pot will also work for this recipe, no changes. 3 quart pot will work if you halve the recipe. Halve ingredients, same cooking time.
To make this using the pot-in-pot method: 3 quart mini Instant Pot liner* and OXO sling*.
What should I serve with Instant Pot Stuffed Shells?
I’m a fan of a plain green salad with the olive garden salad dressing. You could also serve with garlic bread or garlic knots to sop up of some of the marinara sauce.
More Recipes You’ll Love…
Instant Pot Italian Chicken Pasta
Instant Pot Rigatoni and Sausage
Instant Pot Ziti and Meatballs
Instant Pot Tortellini Lasagna
Instant Pot Stuffed Shells
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 minutes (plus 10 minute NPR)
- Total Time: 24 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with a beefy cheesy mixture and smothered in marinara sauce.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 (26 oz jar or can) marinara sauce
- 1 (12 oz) box jumbo pasta shells (has about 42 shells in it)
- 2 cups water
- Turn your Instant Pot to the saute (more) setting. When the display says HOT add in the ground beef and break it up*. Add in the salt, garlic powder, pepper, basil, onion powder, parsley and oregano. Brown for about 5 minutes. Pour the meat into a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour 2 cups water into the bottom of the Instant Pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Turn off your Instant Pot.
- Add cottage/ricotta cheese, egg, mozzarella and parmesan into the bowl with the meat. Stir to combine.
- Use your fingers to stuff the meat mixture into the pasta shells. Some shells will be easier to stuff than others.
- Turn your Instant Pot to the saute setting. Pour the marinara sauce into the Instant Pot with the 2 cups of water that’s already in there. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it’s boiling drop in the shells working quickly. Turn off the saute setting.
- Cover the pot and move valve to sealing. Set the manual/pressure cook button to 4 minutes. When the time is up let the pot sit for 10 minutes and then move the valve to venting and remove the lid.
- Use a large spoon to scoop the shells onto serving plates. Serve with the sauce.
This makes a lot of shells, you can easily halve this recipe. Halve all the ingredients and keep the cooking time the same.
Alternately you can cook the shells ahead of time so that they are pliable and easier to stuff. Boil the noodles according to package directions. Stuff them with filling. Then use the pot in pot method to cook so they do not overcook. Pile the stuffed shells into a pan that will fit inside your Instant Pot. I like to use this 3 quart mini Instant Pot liner inside by 6 or 8 quart pot. Pour the jar of marinara sauce over the shells (you don’t need to add water in with the marinara). Pour 1 cup of water into the Instant Pot. Lower the pan with shells into the bottom of the Instant Pot with a trivet/sling. Cover the Instant pot and turn valve to sealing. Set the manual/pressure cook button to 15 minutes. When time is up let the pot sit for 5 minutes and then move the valve to venting. Remove the lid and serve.
I used my 6 quart Instant Pot Duo 60 7 in 1*.
Try swapping out the lean ground beef for a pound of Italian sausage. Then omit all the spices.
- Category: Beef
- Method: Instant Pot
*Karen Petersen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Oh, this was terrific and I’ve been craving stuffed shells for some time. I had my usual stovetop or slow cooker ways to make it but thought maybe instant pot? Sure enough, when I want a non-every-day meal or a hmm, there has to be a recipe for this, I go to 365 Days and sure enough 9 out of 10 times, Karen, you’ve made it and posted the recipe. I did not change one thing and cooked it with the pip using stackable pans. Thank you.
P.S. How the heck did you stuff those uncooked shells? I broke so many trying I had to go and buy another box. Any tips would be appreciated!
At first I read your review as “this was terrible” haha! I’m glad it said terrific instead. The shells were a bit challenging. Greg did them and he said, “you have to be delicate” 🤣
I am try that next weekend
Hope you enjoy it Misty!
I was so excited to see a recipe like this BUT, I tried it TWICE! I went by the directions exactly and both times my instant pot gave the “burn” signal. I was so disappointed b/c it’s time consuming to stuff those little shells. The second time I tried adding a little vegetable oil hoping this would help and an extra 1/2 cup of water to no avail. I ended up sticking them in the oven to finish cooking them. So disappointing. I’ve had an instant pot for years and use these recipes weekly but this was “no bueno” only “burno”. I hope you have better luck!
Did you bring it to a boil first?
Carolyn Nicander Mohr says
Hey Karen, I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I am excited to try the excellent tip to avoid the BURN warning on the Instant Pot. That gem of a tip will be helpful for many recipes. Thank you!
It worked great for me!
Janine F. says
I’ve never made stuffed shells before. But I just made your recipe. Perfect amount of meat/cheese mixture. My son (8yo) who is the pickiest eater I’ve ever known, even tried them. He still wasn’t a huge fan(but they must have looked good to him to actually try them). But offered a suggestion to make some with just the meat and some with meat/cheese mixture and put them in the same pot to cook so the marinara sauce still gets the “cheesy texture”.
Janine F says
I loved them by the way.
So glad to hear you enjoyed them Janine! 😊
So good. The pasta was perfectly cooked. I topped it with more parmesan cheese and hot pepper flakes before serving.
Yay! Which method did you use? Pot in pot or straight in the pot?
Sorry for the late reply. I didn’t know there was a question out there. I did it straight in the pot.
My husband is not a fan of a lot of ricotta filling in shells, so I put a mini precooked meatball and just a little bit of ricotta in his shells. Do you see any reason why these wouldn’t work following your directions?
This would be great! The shells might need to be precooked as I don’t know how you’d fit a little meatball in there without the shell being pliable. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
Hey, Karen! Do the shells cook all the way at round, in the no-boil method? No hard edges left? Also, in step 4, you accidentally said yo set the vent to “venting,” instead of “sealing.” Im sure most experienced instant pot users would catch that, but just in case…I can’t wait to try this as an alternative to ipot lasagna, which I’ve been making a lot, during quarantine! 😉
That should’ve been step 6, sorry!
Oh thanks for letting me know that typo! I just corrected it. Yes they cooked so well! I was so happy with them. I tried uncooked pot in pot and they didn’t cook very well. So if you put them straight in the pot they should be good.
Sharon Waxman says
This sounds delicious. Sometimes I like to eat meatless meals. Do you think instead of the meat I could use spinach in this recipe? Thank you.
Yes I think you could. Would you saute it? I’ve seen so many recipes for meatless shells, you could follow one of their recipe and then use this method to cook.
Lynnette Lettinga says
For a meatless alternative, perhaps precooked quinoa and/or black beans could be mixed in with the spinach, cheeses and spices I make my own veggie burgers with quinoa and black beans.
Yum that sounds amazing Lynnette!!!