Warm and Cozy Chicken Stuffed Shells
It’s stuffed shell season and chicken stuffed shells are here for it.
This recipe is two of my favorite things ever in one dish: stuffed shells and chicken pot pie. I love the creamy flavors of chicken pot pie but honestly I hardly ever make it because I’m not the greatest at making pie crust.
So, I thought I’d combine chicken pot pie with pasta, but went a little further and took the time to stuff giant pasta shells. Because honestly, stuffed shells are elite.
This recipe is perfect for people who:
- love stuffed shells but don’t like tomatoes or red sauce
- love chicken pot pie filling
- don’t love making pie crust
- want a giant pan of comfort
- want a cozy make ahead meal that can be frozen and gifted
and really, anyone who loves carby, creamy, comfort food!
What are stuffed shells
Stuffed shells are the ultimate casserole. They’re giant pasta shells, called conchiglioni, in Italian. Cooked shells are stuffed with filling, placed in a casserole or baking dish, topped with sauce and cheese and baked in the oven. Just like lasagna or manicotti, you can stuff shells with just about any sauce you can think of. Most commonly you’ll see them stuffed with ricotta and topped with marinara or meat sauce and cheese. I went with a creamy chicken pot pie filling here because chicken pot pie is essentially a creamy chicken sauce, perfect for stuffing into shells.
How to make chicken stuffed shells
- Cook the onions and garlic – cook the onions and garlic in a bit of butter until soft and translucent.
- Cook the chicken – add the chicken and lightly sear. It doesn’t need to be cooked through because it will continue to cook in the sauce.
- Add flour to make a roux – sprinkle the flour over the chicken, onions, and garlic, stirring to coat everything evenly in flour. The flour should cook and stick to the chicken, giving it a little golden coat.
- Stream in chicken stock and milk – slowly stream in the chicken stock while whisking. Stir in the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the cheese – stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Cook the shells – cook the shells in salted water 2-3 minutes less than al dente according to the package. Drain, shock in cold water, then drain well. We do this after making the filling so the filling has time to cool.
- Stuff the shells – Spoon a generous amount of sauce into a large baking/casserole dish. Stir the frozen peas into the remaining sauce. Adding frozen peas to the sauce right before baking makes sure that they don’t get mushy. Stuff each pasta shell with a generous amount of filling. Place the stuffed shells into the sauced dish, tucking them neatly next to each other. Top the shells with any left over sauce as well as mozzarella and parmesan.
- Bake the shells – place the baking dish into a 375°F oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is golden.
Enjoy! Enjoy the rewards of your efforts. Let the shells cool slightly before digging in to what could very possibly be the best stuffed shells you’ll ever make.
Chicken stuffed shell ingredients
- jumbo pasta shells – you’ll need 1 box of jumbo pasta shells for this dish. They typically come in 12 oz boxes. Shells come in three sizes, small, medium, and jumbo. You want the jumbo box.
- butter and flour – butter and flour cook together to make a roux, which is what is going to thicken our chicken pot pie sauce
- onion and garlic – onion and garlic are classic savory aromatics that add so much background flavor to the sauce
- chicken – you can’t have chicken pot pie without chicken. I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, but if you have leftover cooked chicken, you can use that too!
- peas – personally I love peas in chicken pot pie! Frozen peas are the best peas because they’re picked and frozen at their peak. We will add them in at the very last minute, without thawing or really letting them get warm so they hold their pea shape and texture while being baked.
- chicken stock and milk – a mix of chicken stock and milk make the sauce creamy and full of chicken-y flavor
- mozzarella and parmesan – a mix of mozzarella and parm here is key. The mozzarella gives the sauce a cheesy, unctuous stretch and a sprinkle of parmesan on top when the shells bake in the oven add a deep cheese umami and slight crunch.
- flat leaf parsley – you might be tempted to skip this but freshly chopped flat leaf parsley adds much a needed fresh herbaceousness. Plus, finishing your casserole after it comes out of the oven with whole leaves of parsley is extra pretty.
Which shells to buy for stuffed shells
Jumbo shells are the shells you want. They’re usually hanging out near the lasagna noodles and manicotti in a big box. They come in 12 oz boxes and 1 box has enough shells to fill a standard casserole dish.
Tips and tricks for stuffed shells
Undercook your shells
There are usually two cooking times on pasta shell boxes: one for al dente and one for baking. Use the cooking time for baking so your shells don’t get over cooked. If the box doesn’t come with a baking time, make sure to cook your shells 2-3 minutes under the cooking time. Firmer, undercooked shells are easier to stuff and don’t break as much. The shells will continue to cook in the oven becoming tender and perfectly cooked.
Don’t sweat broken shells
It’s inevitable that some of the shells in the box will be broken. Or maybe you’ll be too excited and stuff a shell too much and it’ll rip. Don’t worry about it, just put it in your pan, the sauce on top plus the cheese will hide the fact that it’s broken.
What size baking dish for stuffed shells
A standard 9×13 inch casserole or baking dish will fit your stuffed shells perfectly. If you have a pan that you use for lasagna, that is what you should reach for. That being said, you can bake stuffed shells in any heat proof vessel, it doesn’t have to be a rectangle. You can use a cake pan or even a cast iron pan.
Make ahead chicken stuffed shells
You can make and assemble the entire casserole the day before, cover it tightly and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking it. Add 15 minutes onto the baking time, covering with foil if the top starts to brown too much.
You can also make the sauce the day before and assemble the next day. If you do, loosen the sauce slightly before spreading it in the pan by giving it a minute or two in microwave, stirring well after it’s been warmed.
How to freeze stuffed shells
Make the stuffed shells in a foil pan and wrap tightly. Freeze the entire pan. You can keep this in the freezer for up to 1 month.
How to reheat stuffed shells
- Microwave – Simply scoop out a portion, cover, and warm in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until warmed through.
- Oven – Cover the pan with foil and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until warmed through.
How to reheat frozen stuffed shells
Cover the casserole with foil and bake from frozen for 1 hour and 30 minutes then remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden.
What to serve with stuffed shells
I think these stuffed shells are a complete meal, but salad and bread is always good! A simple kale salad and the best fluffy garlic rolls would make this the ultimate dinner.
Have a cozy one, happy shell stuffing!
Chicken Stuffed Shells
All the goodness of chicken pot pie stuffed into giant pasta shells and baked with a cheesy golden blanket
- 12 oz jumbo pasta shells ~1 box
- 5 tbsp butter divided
- 1 medium onion peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken stock no sodium preferred
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 10 oz frozen peas ~1 bag
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup parmesan finely grated
Chicken Stuffed Shells
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 202
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 10.5g66%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.