Beefy Enchilada Shells

These Beefy Enchilada Shells are a fun twist on a Mexican favorite. Tender pasta shells, red enchilada sauce, ground beef, cumin, garlic, chili powder, cheese, and more! 

For more delicious, cheesy, beefy Mexican pasta dishes, bookmark these recipes: Mexican Beef and Rice Skillet, Instant Pot Cheesy Mexican Chicken and Rice, and this Cheesy Mexican Rigatoni Bake

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |

Some recipe combinations don’t work out. Pork tenderloin with dill sauce? Gross. Stuffed shells and enchiladas? Genius. Don’t worry, I’m not calling myself a genius, I’m calling whoever first came up with this meal a genius. I don’t know exactly where it originated but I can tell you that I had a similar dish at a friend’s house not long ago and decided to give it a little Tiffany Treatment and see if I couldn’t combine the awesomeness of Mexican enchiladas with the creamy, cheesy goodness of Italian stuffed shells. 

The answer is: I can and I did. This dish just make sense. Pasta is amazing. Ground beef is amazing. Cheese, well, yes, of course it’s fabulous. Plus, you can add all your favorite toppings to this dish just as you would any other Mexican dish. And kids adore most anything made with pasta and cheese — so this was a great way for me to introduce new flavors to the little ones without worrying about it being too spicy. (Or that too much of it would end up on my dining room floor out of rejection.) 

If you’ve been on the fence at all about combining pasta with other traditional dishes, this is a great starter dish to get you hopping right on over to the other side. 

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |


For this dish, I went with a smaller pasta shell variety. I chose this because shells are fun (I won’t even try to sugarcoat that one), and they hold little bits of sauce, spices, beef, and cheese in their little shell cups, which is what you want in a dish like this. 

Other pastas that would work well include: 

  • Rigatoni
  • Elbow macaroni
  • Penne
  • Fusilli 
  • Ziti 
  • Gemelli 
  • Farfalle
  • Wheels 
  • Cavatapi
  • Any other fun little pasta shape you like! 

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |


First of all, ground beef is made out of beef that is, well, ground up finely. It generally comes from meat leftover after a butcher has cut out all the better parts of the steaks, roasts, etc. 

Some packages will say where the ground beef comes from. For example, it will say “ground chuck” or “ground round,” or “ground sirloin” as to indicate from which part of the animal the ground meat came. 

And, when you see some percentages on the package, that refers to the meat’s fat content. So something like 80/20 would mean that the package is 80% lean beef and 20% fat and so on. 

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |


If you’re thinking of a typical enchilada, then you’re thinking of the Mexican dish wherein you take a corn tortilla, fill it with some yummy goodness, and then smother it with a red or green sauce made from red or green chili peppers. 

This dish takes the best of all those worlds and throws them all together with pasta for a delicious, one-pan meal. 

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |


Yes, you can freeze this dish. It’s best to let it come to room temperature before freezing. Transfer to a freezer-safe/airtight container and label with the name of the dish and the date you made it/put it in the freezer (it’ll be easier to identify later if you do this now). 

This dish will keep in the freezer for up to three months. Let it thaw in the fridge before reheating. Once you’ve frozen and thawed this dish, do not refreeze it. It will start to get rubbery and taste like your freezer. Plus, there could be some food safety issues at that point that you most likely do not want to deal with. 

Easy one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells recipe |

Beefy Enchilada Shells

Easy 30-minute, one pot Beefy Enchilada Shells made with savory ground beef, tender pasta shells, and loads of ooey gooey Mexican cheese.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword beef, enchilada, one pot, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Tiffany


  • 16 ounces small or medium pasta shells
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
  • 4 10-ounce cans medium enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar and/or monterey jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • avocado, sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro optional toppings


  • Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  • Saute ground beef in a large skillet, sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne, continue to cook until beef is browned.
  • Add enchilada sauce to pan, bring to a simmer.
  • Stir in pasta shells and season salt with salt to taste.
  • Stir in half of the cheese until melted. Top with remaining cheese and cover for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted on top.
  • Add toppings as desired and serve.


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    Hi Mary! I haven’t tried this recipe in the instant pot yet, so I can’t say for sure! If I try it in the future, I’ll add notes in for it.

40 ounces of enchilada sauce seems like a lot for 4 servings. is that correct?

    It should be 3 10 oz can, so a total of 30 ounces! We are working to get this typo fixed!

iS it correct that this needs 40 ounces of Enchilada sauce? That seems like a lot.

How would you recommend heating this after freezing? It looks delicious!

    I would freeze it in a disposable casserole dish/baking pan and then cover with foil to reheat in the oven. You can use a regular pan too but it’s obviously out of commission til you take it out of the freezer. If you’re doing individual portions, I’d say microwave! If you are reheating from the fridge (not freezer) you can reheat on the stove. You may need to stir in a few tablespoons of water!

Does this really call for 40 ounces of enchilada Sauce?

    It should be 3 10 oz cans, so a total of 30 ounces! We are working to get this typo fixed!

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