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Nostalgia, flavor, and ease all in one pot! I know you will all love this One-Pot Italian Shells and Cheese!

Cooked pasta, sauce and beef in cast iron skillet surrounded by cups and plates.

The one-pot pastas on my site are some of my most popular, weeknight recipes. And for good reason! Especially when school starts back up and calendars start to fill, it’s nice to have an option you can get on the table in less than 45 minutes.

Three brown stone plates filled with cooked pasta.

This particular recipes is a riff on Hamburger Helper’s “Italian Shells & Cheese” and the classic Hamburger Helper I developed a few years ago. This time, I added Italian sausage, cheddar, and ricotta for an extra creamy twist. I’m sure your family will love this take on the classic, All-American go-to.

Cooked ground beef in black cast iron skillet with spoon in it.

step one: brown the sausage

To kick this recipe off, in your large pot saute the garlic and onions. Next, add the mild (or hot) Italian sausage and cook until nicely browned.

step two: season the sausage

Italian sausage already has great flavor, but there is a lot of pasta and sauce in this dish so I like to add more seasonings to make sure there is flavor packed in ever bite. Once your seasonings are added and lightly toasted, you will continue to get the sauce started with tomato paste.

Black cast iron skillet filled with browned ground beef, dry pasta shells, red sauce and broth pouring in.

step three: create sauce and begin cooking the pasta

Next, you’ll add the red wine vinegar, beef broth, tomato sauce, and pasta to the pot. You may be thinking, “Red wine vinegar? Huh?” But, the vinegar just helps to bring a brightness to the dish and amplify the flavors. Just trust me! Once your ingredients are combined, follow the steps below until the pasta is cooked just right.

Cook ground beef, pasta, and red sauce in cast iron skillet with cheese being stirred in with spoon.

step four: remove from heat and add the final ingredients!

Now that the pasta is cooked, remove from heat and mix in the ricotta and cheddar cheese. The pasta will be hot enough to melt the cheeses, but if needed, you can put it over low heat. Once combined, taste and adjust the salt to our preference then garnish with more cheddar cheese and parsley.

Three plates filled with cooked pasta with forks surrounded by cups and napkins.

I can’t wait to hear what you think about this One-Pot Italian Shells and Cheese — I know y’all will enjoy it.

Looking for another classic you and your kiddos will love? Be sure to try my One-Pot “Yummy Pasta!”

Three brown stone plates filled with cooked pasta.
5 from 23 votes

One-Pot Italian Shells and Cheese

Gluten-Free (if modified)
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 22 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 5


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely-diced yellow onion about 1 small onion
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage sub spicy if preferred
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • One 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 12 ounces dried shells pasta I use Jovial Brown Rice for gluten-free
  • ½ cup whole milk ricotta at room temperature *see note
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese plus more for serving

For Serving:

  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley


  • Heat a large, deep-sided skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add in sausage and sauté, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Drain off excess fat if necessary (I like to keep at least 2 tablespoons in there for added flavor) and return to the pan.
  • To the meat, season with salt, onion powder, dried oregano, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir to combine and cook over medium-high for about 2 minutes, allowing the spices to lightly toast. Add in the tomato paste and stir to combine, cooking for an additional 1 minute, or until the paste has totally melted in and combined with the meat.
  • Pour in the red wine vinegar, beef broth, tomato sauce, and pasta. Stir to combine. Bring contents in the pot to a boil and once boiling, reduce the heat to a very subtle simmer, and let cook until pasta is tender, stirring often, until most of the liquid has absorbed and the pasta is al dente, 13 to 15 minutes.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, remove skillet from heat and stir in the ricotta and cheddar cheese until combined and melted. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Garnish with fresh parsley and extra cheddar. Enjoy!


*For the ricotta, it works best to keep it at room temperature so that it doesn’t seize when it is added to the hot pasta. I simply set mine out on the counter so that it can come to room temp while I am making the pasta and it does the trick! If you forgot to do this- I recommend omitting the ricotta part. It’s fabulous without it! 

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Servings: 5

Photography by Eat Love Eats.

Welcome! I’m Alex.

I’m a food lover sharing healthy, simple, delicious, recipes from my kitchen to yours. Here you’ll find lots of Whole30, lots of healthy, and a little indulgence here and there because…it’s all about balance y’all!

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Recipe Rating


    1. Ground turkey should work fine- just be mindful the ground italian sausage does add a lot of flavor since it’s seasoned/spiced– whereas the ground turkey is more bland. So if you go that route- I’d bump up the seasonings.

  1. 5 stars
    SO GOOD! Great comfort meal and isn’t *too* heavy! Perfect for a cozy rainy day 🙂

    Made it again for a family dinner and it was a hit!

  2. We LOVED this meal!! I can already tell this is going to be a new fave in the house for a few reasons: 1) this recipe is full of pantry staples I always have on hand 2) this meal comes together in right around 30 minutes & 3) these flavors are soooo nostalgic (hello Hamburger Helper)!

  3. We LOVED this meal!! I can already tell this is going to be a new fave in the house for a few reasons: 1) this recipe is full of pantry staples I always have on hand 2) this meal comes together in right around 30 minutes & 3) these flavors are soooo nostalgic (hello Hamburger Helper)!

  4. A perfect “comfort food” meal for a Monday night. I made sure my ricotta was very much room temperature (based on the notes) and it worked out nicely. Kids loved it as well.

  5. I’ve made your one-pot pasta dishes several times and they are all SO tasty! But my pasta gets really mushy and falls apart so the meal ends up looking a little like cat food which my kids complain about 😬 I’ve tried several different types of gluten free pasta…any tips on how to avoid this? I’m cooking it for the amount of time your recipe suggests, so maybe too high temp?

    1. Hi amanda,
      I am so sorry to hear that it wasn’t perfect!! Did you try Jovial Brown Rice Pasta- I find that brown rice pasta is the best for GF pasta and that is my favorite brand to use!