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Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

This delicious homemade hamburger helper is a one-pot wonder that is going to be a huge hit on your dinner table! Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells is packed full of flavor and could not be easier, and the hint of smoke from grilling the meatball is the perfect compliment to the rich, cheesy tomato sauce.

Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

Traeger Cheesy Italian Homemade Hamburger Helper

I love a good boxed meal. Let me get that out of the way right away. I’m pretty sure you can find multiple boxes of easy, convenient meals from the dreaded “middle aisles” of the grocery store stocked in my pantry. I’m not too good for Hamburger Helper, Pasta Roni, Rice-a-Roni, or any of it. There’s a reason they are so popular. They taste pretty darn amazing.

Sometimes I like to make things myself, though. We also deal with multiple food allergies in the house, and making things from scratch is an easy way to know exactly what’s in the mix.

This homemade Traeger-fied version of one of my favorite convenience meals is only a little harder than whipping out the box. This recipe makes enough to feed a small army, so invite the teenagers AND their friends up for dinner and get cooking. They’re all going to love it.

P.S. They’ll also love these Biscoff Blondies for dessert!

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Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells shopping list

Wondering if you have to hit the store? Here’s the list of items you’ll need to make this recipe. For specific amounts, please refer to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Lean ground beef
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Italian seasoning blend
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beef broth
  • Italian seasoning blend
  • Paprika
  • Pasta shells
  • Heavy cream
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley
Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

How to make Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

This is just the overview so you can see what you’re actually getting into here. When you are cooking, you’ll want to use the full recipe at the bottom of the page.



Fire up the pellet grill and heat to 300°F.



Mix the meatball with the meatball seasonings, form a large circular loaf, place it onto a wire rack, and place the rack on the grill. Smoke for 30 minutes.



While the meatball is smoking, make the sauce. Heat a Dutch oven with the olive oil and saute the onion. Add the other sauce ingredients (minus the cream and cheese, and parsley) and bring it up to a simmer.

Add the meatball into the sauce and break it up.

Add the shells and cover. Stir frequently and cook until the noodles are tender.

Add the cream and stir. Add the cheese and stir some more.



Enjoy with a loaf of crusty bread and a fresh green salad. Or whatever you want. This is your show.

Get all of my Traeger Recipes here!

Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

Smoked Cheesy Italian Shells FAQ

Can you make this without a pellet grill or smoker?

Yes! If you want to skip the pellet grill, you can make this all on the stovetop. Just brown the ground beef and seasonings along with the onion, and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

What’s the best way to store and reheat leftovers?

This is a simple pasta dish, so it’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days max. Reheat in the microwave.

Don’t have ground beef? Sub in some ground pork! Don’t like onions? Skip it! Want to throw in some additional vegetables? Fresh peas or corn would make a great mix-in! As with most of our recipes, I encourage you to experiment!

Try our Shrimp Marinara sometime!

Smoked Cheesy Italian Shells

More delicious pasta recipes to love!

Smoked Cheesy Italian Shells
Yield: 8 servings

Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

Traeger Cheesy Italian Shells

Our homemade Hamburger Helper Cheesy Italian Shells are great for a quick, homemade dinner! The meatball is smoked before being added to the rest of the mix, and the result is so cheesy and delicious!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour



  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

Sauce & Pasta

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 - 28-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pound pasta shells
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the pellet grill to 300°F.
  2. Mix together the beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning blend. Form into a large meatball and place it on a wire rack.
  3. Place the meatball on the smoker and let it cook for 30 minutes.
  4. While the meat is cooking on the grill, preheat a Dutch Oven on the stovetop over medium heat with the olive oil inside. Saute the onion for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato sauce, beef broth, Italian seasoning, and paprika to the pan. Bring to a low simmer.
  6. Add the meatball into the sauce mixture and break it apart with a meat masher or spatula. Bring it back up to a simmer.
  7. Add the noodles to the pot and cover. Stir frequently until the pasta is tender.
  8. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Once that is incorporated, stir in the shredded cheese.
  9. Top with the chopped fresh parsley and serve hot.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 706Total Fat: 42gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 174mgSodium: 1804mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 52g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate.

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson, a self-taught expert in grilling and outdoor cooking, launched Or Whatever You Do in 2010. Her blog, renowned for its comprehensive and creative outdoor cooking recipes, has garnered a vast audience of millions. Nicole's hands-on experience and passion for grilling shine through her work. Her husband, Jeremiah Johnson, also plays a pivotal role in recipe development, adding his culinary flair to the mix. Together, they form a dynamic duo, offering a rich and varied outdoor cooking experience to their followers.

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