Cheesy Chicken Stuffed Shells are a comforting dinner your family will absolutely devour! Make a big batch and freeze half for later or prep ahead of time and cook later. These shells are so easy, you’ll find yourself putting them in regular rotation!
Stuffed pasta shells are one of my favorite things to order at Italian restaurants. Manicotti, stuffed shells, cannelloni – give me pasta stuff with a creamy filling and I’m a happy happy girl. I love a classic ricotta and spinach filling, but sometimes I like to add protein too. That’s how these Cheesy Chicken Stuffed Shells cam about. They’re the perfect combination of cheesy goodness, chicken, and sauce for a dinner win you can count on every time.
My absolute favorite thing about this chicken stuffed shells recipe is that it can be made ahead of time or frozen. If I’m doing the work, I like to reap the benefits. AKA you’ll usually find me making a double batch of shells so I can freeze half for later.
And when I know I’ll be out for the night at my DoS meeting or shuffling kids around to music lessons or sports practice, I can prep some ricotta stuffed shells in the morning. Then Mike can throw them in the oven for all of us and when we get home dinner is ready. That’s teamwork friends.
I also mix things up sometimes, swapping out the chicken for mild Italian sausage or cooked spinach. These shells make a regular appearance at our house and I know they’ll get rave reviews at your house too!
Ingredients for Chicken Stuffed Shells
- Jumbo pasta shells
- Ricotta cheese
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Shredded Parmesan cheese
- Cooked chicken breast
- Dried parsley
- Dried oregano
- Salt & pepper
- Pasta sauce
If you want to turn these into a chicken parm stuffed shells recipe, it’s really easy. Add a little red sauce to the filling. and then mix up 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs with some Parmesan cheese, melted butter, and a little Italian seasoning. Then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixtures all over the top of the dish before putting it into the oven.
The breadcrumbs will get toasty and crunchy on top of the melted cheese giving that “crust” vibe you’d get in chicken parmesan.
How many jumbo shells are in a 12 oz box?
There are about 36 shells in a box. I usually cook more shells than I need in case some break during the cooking and draining process. It totally happens, and having extra shells is a must.
How to Make Stuffed Shells
- Start off by preheating your oven to 375 degrees F. Add 1/2 cup of pasta sauce to the bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Spread the sauce over the bottom of the pasta, and then set aside for later.
- After that, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously season the water with salt and then add in the pasta shells. Cook the pasta according to the package directions until they’re al dente. Once cooked, drain the pasta.
- While the shells are cooking, get the filling all mixed up!
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, egg, dried parsley, dried oregano, salt, and pepper until combined.
- Once the pasta is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to open a shell. Use a large spoon to add some of the filling until the shell is full, but not overflowing – about 2-3 tablespoons.
- Place the filled shell into your prepared baking dish. Continue filling shells until the filling is all used up and the baking dish is full.
- Top the shells with more pasta sauce, being sure to get some on all the shells. Then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese all over the pasta.
- Cover the pan loosely with foil and place it in the hot oven. Bake the shells for 35 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish from your oven and carefully remove the foil. (Watch for the steam!) Sprinkle a little more parsley on top and you’re ready to serve!
If you want to get that golden bubbly cheese on top, return your baking dish to the oven after removing the foil. Turn you oven to broil and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes. Keep an eye on the cheese, you want it golden… not burnt.
What are stuffed shells called?
The actual pasta used for this dish is called conchiglioni. Pronounced con-keel-yay-oh-nee. It’s a larger version of conchiglie – the smaller pasta shells that are typically used for pasta salad or macaroni and cheese. The term conchiglie means “conch shells” and these shells totally remind me of them.
This shell shape of the pasta helps the sauce adhere to it and allows you to stuff it with all kinds of yummy fillings!
What’s the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?
Manicotti is a long, tube-like pasta. The term manicotti means “little muffs” like the old school hand-warming clothing item. This pasta is usually stuffed with a ricotta based filling.
Stuffed shells, on the other hand, use conchiglioni pasta. They get stuffed with everything from spinach and ricotta to ground beef in red sauce and even taco meat with cheddar cheese and toppings!
What goes with stuffed shells?
My family loves a green salad with Italian dressing and some garlic bread with these chicken stuffed pasta shells. (Double carbs!) Some Italian sausages, Sunday gravy (AKA red meat sauce), and yellow squash casserole are all great options too.
That being said, these shells are totally a stand-alone meal. Completely delicious all by themselves for lunch or dinner. They reheat wonderfully, and if you make a double batch, you can freeze half for later!
Simply transfer the frozen pan to the fridge the morning before to thaw, and then bake until warmed through and the cheese is melted (about 45 mins).
More to die for pasta recipes!
Grab the chicken and let’s get cookin’!
- Chicken and Dumplings
- Seasoned Chicken Tacos
- 30-Minute Bacon Chicken Chili
- Green Chile Chicken and Rice Casserole
- More dinner recipes
- 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells, (about 24 shells)
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley, plus more for garnish
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 cups red pasta sauce, (your favorite brand)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Generously salt the water and then add in the pasta shells. Cook until al dente, according to package directions, and then drain. Rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle.
- While the pasta cooks, mix up the filling. To a large mixing bowl, add ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, chicken, egg, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir everything together until combined.
- Place 1/2 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Spread it around until a thin layer coats the bottom of the dish.
- Use your fingers to open a pasta shell. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling into the shell. It should be full, but not bursting. Place the shell into your prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining shells and filling. Line up the shells in your dish so you can fit as many as possible.
- Top the shells with pasta sauce, about 1 tablespoon each. Then spread out the sauce a little so it's not just a blob on top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella all over the shells.
- Cover the baking dish loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and take to foil off (be careful of the steam!). Sprinkle with more parsley for garnish. Serve warm.
- Serving size is 3 shells per person.
- I cook more shells than I need for this recipe. That way if any break while boiling or while I'm filling them, I have extras.
- For the chicken, you want 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken which is 2 small breasts. I make my chicken the day before (with dinner) or grab a rotisserie chicken at the store to save time.