Chili garlic Beef and Shells is incredibly simple, hearty, and comforting. This is a delicious family dinner you can have ready in about 20 minutes.

A skillet full of beef and shells seasoned with chili powder and garlic.

Once upon a time, I didn’t have many ground beef recipes on the site. However, I’ve received so much positive feedback on the Korean ground beef bowls that I figured a few more ideas might be welcome! I guess a lot of us have an extra package of ground meat in the freezer, just waiting for inspiration.

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Beef and shells is a pretty common recipe. This version has tons of flavor thanks to a simple combination of chili powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.

What you won’t you find in this beef and shells recipe is a large amount of cheddar cheese or heavy cream. I like using just enough cream to thicken the sauce without drowning the pasta or adding too many calories. 🙂

How to make beef and shells

  1. Cook the pasta. Be sure to salt the water well – it should be salty like the sea to ensure the pasta itself has flavor. This is one of those little things that takes everyday cooking up a notch.
  2. Brown the onion and meat. It’s helpful to use a very lean ground beef, so that you won’t need to drain any grease.
  3. Add seasonings and tomato sauce.
  4. Stir in a pinch of cream and the cooked, drained pasta. Serve and enjoy!

I like to add a sprinkling of Italian parsley, fresh if I have it, dried if not, just for color. This is totally optional. Of course my son always picks it off if even a minuscule shred lands on his portion, so there’s that.

Substitutions and swaps

This is a pretty flexible recipe, and there are a few common substitutions you might want to make.

  • Meat. You can absolutely swap ground turkey or chicken for the beef in this recipe. I imagine it would be good with faux meat crumbles, as well, though I haven’t personally tried that (yet!).
  • Pasta. If I have the choice, I usually buy medium shells – it’s called beef and shells, after all – but of course you can substitute any type of pasta you like. Try it with penne, rotini, or any other shape that has a lot of ridges or nooks and crannies to soak up the sauce.
  • Veggies. If you want to add extra veggies, toss in a handful of finely chopped carrot or diced bell peppers. Add them in in the first step, along with the onion.
  • Cream. You can substitute half and half or even milk, but be aware that the lower the fat content in whatever you add, the thinner your sauce will be and the greater the chance that the sauce may curdle at the end. This doesn’t make it inedible, but may make it slightly less appetizing!
Bowls of chili garlic beef and shells.
Overhead image of chili garlic beef and shells in a skillet.

What to serve with beef and shells

This is a terrifically simple and comforting dish, and delivers your protein and carbs all in one. Serve it with a simple arugula or spinach salad, steamed green beans, roasted broccolini, or roasted carrots with thyme for a complete and delicious meal.

More quick and easy ground beef recipes

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Chili Garlic Beef and Shells

Simple, hearty, and comforting. This is a terrific family dinner you can have ready in no time.


  • 8-10 ounces medium pasta shells
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 10-12 cranks fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  • Boil a large pot of water, add a generous pinch of salt, and cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • While the pasta cooks, warm olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté 2-3 minutes, just until softened.
  • Add beef and cook 4-5 minutes, crumbling it into pieces, until nicely browned.
  • Stir in chili powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, followed by the tomato sauce. Stir well and cook 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  • Stir in the cream until warmed through, then add drained pasta shells, toss well, and serve.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 467kcal, Carbohydrates: 50g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 756mg, Potassium: 893mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 764IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 53mg, Iron: 5mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!