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Copycat Shells and Cheese in the Instant Pot

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If you like your macaroni and cheese super cheesy and over the top creamy, this is the recipe for you. It’s inspired by the boxed shells and cheese and is made easily in the instant pot.

close up bowl of creamy shells and cheese in front of instant pot.

     Very few dinners aren’t made better with a generous helping of creamy macaroni and cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food for kids and adults alike. These cheesy shells practically make themselves with the help of the instant pot.

     Little Dude is a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. Like me, he enjoys is as creamy and cheesy as possible.

       I had one of those big blocks of American cheese in the pantry with the intention of making Kelly’s cheese soup. But the weather started warming up before I had a chance.

pasta and water in instant pot ready to cook.

       Now I can eat cheese soup all year long, but my husband is a hard sell on soup any time of year. So I figured rather than push it, I’d use the cheese to make ultra smooth macaroni and cheese.

        Half of the block went into a stove top version.  I served it with some root beer braised pulled pork that I am sharing with you soon.

         Little Dude was in heaven! He gave it twelve thumbs up and would have written his name on the leftovers with permanent marker if I had let him.

cooked pasta with cheese and milk in instant pot.

         So when we took advantage of a nice day by grilling some burgers, I figured I’d use the rest of that cheese for more macaroni.

      This time I pulled out some large shell pasta to more closely emulate that favorite boxed side dish.  Plus I pulled out the instant pot to make it so I could set it and forget it a bit more.

        After making creamy spaghetti and meatballs in the instant pot, I was hooked on how easy it is. You don’t have to patiently wait for the water to boil and then watch the pot for boil overs.

bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of pressure cooker.

        Instead you just set the time and pressure and enjoy your family! The only word of warning is that the starchy water can make a bit of a mess when you vent the steam.

       No worries though, I have a trick for that!  Just place a damp dishcloth over the vent when you release the pressure.

        It will catch the mess and prevent starchy splatter. I learned that from MiMi after watching her make mashed potatoes in her pressure cooker.

        One the pasta is cooked, the starch liquid left behind is the perfect base for the cheese sauce. Add a little milk and a whole heap of cheese to make it extra good.

bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of pressure cooker.

       A couple of minutes on saute is all it takes to melt it together. It will likely be a little loose still, but will thicken a bit as it sits.

     Just don’t plan on it sitting too long, it will disappear into bellies as soon as you give the go ahead! This version got 36 thumbs up from Little Dude and some happy noises from my husband too.

Tips and tricks

  • Place a damp dishrag over the vent on the pressure cooker to catch any starchy splatter.
  • Start with just a splash of milk and add more if you need it.
  • Cutting the cheese into small cubes will help it melt faster and get dinner on the table quickly.
Yield: 12 Servings

Copycat Shells and Cheese in the Instant Pot

bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of pressure cooker.

If you like your macaroni and cheese super cheesy and over the top creamy, this is the recipe for you. It’s inspired by the boxed shells and cheese and is made easily in the instant pot.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces large shell pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 16 ounces Velveeta (or similar)
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Place pasta, water, salt and pepper in instant pot. 
  2. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Place a damp rag over the pressure release to catch any splatter.
  3. Stir in milk and cubes of cheese, turn instant pot to sautee if needed to make sure all of the cheese is melted.
  4. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes with the instant pot off to  thicken a bit, then serve. 

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 178Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 745mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

If you like your macaroni and cheese super cheesy and over the top creamy, this is the recipe for you. It’s inspired by the boxed shells and cheese and is made easily in the instant pot.

Share with your friends!

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Anonymous

Saturday 11th of January 2020

Just tried it and it came out SUPER soupy. Turns out my box of shells was only 12oz and not 16oz. Damn you shrinkflation! Going to have to give this another go.

Carlee

Saturday 11th of January 2020

Oh no!!! There are a lot of 12 oz boxes of pasta out there. That really sucks though. I hope you found something to stir in there to make it not a waste. Or make it a cheese soup!

Heidi ~ The Frugal Girls

Sunday 7th of April 2019

What a great idea! I love making pasta in the Instant Pot, and this looks like the ultimate comfort food dish!

Carlee

Monday 8th of April 2019

Isn't it such a great way to do pasta? Thank you!

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies

Sunday 7th of April 2019

I'm so excited to make this. Putting cheese on the shopping list!

Carlee

Monday 8th of April 2019

I hope you love it! It makes a whole heap, but we didn't have any trouble eating it! The leftovers were good too. (But it would half easily enough.)

Amy

Saturday 6th of April 2019

I think that my son will like this better than the box! I am going to let him try making this today!!! Thanks!

Carlee

Monday 8th of April 2019

I am sure he will! I hope you enjoy it!

Debbie

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Hi Carlee, it's been a while since I've made macaroni cheese. I tend to make it as a stand alone dish with salad in the warmer months... It has to be creamy and your instant pot seems to do the job perectly.

xx

Carlee

Monday 8th of April 2019

I could totally make a meal of macaroni and cheese with a salad! Thanks, Deb!