Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells

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These cheesy, marinara-covered Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells are a mash-up of two delicious dinners: stuffed shells and chicken Parmesan!

Pair these delectable cheesy shells with a simple side salad like this Italian salad or this balsamic dressed cucumber salad.

Overhead view of Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells, ready to be served.

Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells

My husband’s favorite meal (besides a really great grilled steak) is stuffed shells. He loves them! Another meal he can’t get enough of is chicken Parmesan. So why not mash the two together to make the ultimate comfort meal?! And while I was sure these would be a hit, I never expected so much praise! In fact, the whole family is obsessed with them, myself included. 

We make this meal so often that I’ve come up with some short-cuts along the way. Throughout this post I’ll share ways to make this recipe from scratch (if you’ve got extra time or are feeling ambitious) and I’ll share the short-cuts for how to make this meal come together a bit quicker. Let’s get started!

Process shots: baking chicken strips; cutting them into small pieces; mixing the cheesy filling; cooking the shells; filling the shells with cheese; spreading marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan; adding the filled shells onto the mariana sauce.

Marinara

The base of these Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells is marinara sauce and once the shells are loaded, they’re covered in more marinara. The marinara can either be bought (quick and easy) or made from scratch.

If going the store-bought route, I highly recommend Rao’s® marinara sauce: (not sponsored). This marinara sauce is the absolute best on these stuffed shells – it’s got a rich flavor and tastes like homemade.

To make marinara from scratch, here’s my go-to recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28 ounces each) peeled and crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen®, fire-roasted recommended!)
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the finely chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook until tender — about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add in the basil (coarsely chop or cut it with kitchen shears — no stems) and then the cans of tomatoes. Next, add in the sugar, a generous amount of salt and pepper, and the Italian seasoning.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the other ingredients are ready (shells and the chicken).

Process shots: adding cheese-stuffed shells to the pan; placing chicken pieces in the shells; spooning marinara sauce over the shells; covering with foil and baking; uncovering, adding cheese and baking more; toasting panko crumbs; crumbs sprinkled on top of baked shells.

Chicken Tenders

Once the shells are filled with the cheesy layer, they are stuffed with pieces of crispy, baked chicken tenders. Again, the chicken can be made from scratch or purchased ready-made (quick and easy).

Store-bought route: While I’m no expert at store bought crispy chicken tenders (I don’t buy it all that often), I personally use Tyson’s crispy chicken strips for these Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells (not sponsored). I do recommend baking the chicken tenders, not microwaving them. Let the crispy chicken slightly cool to a warm temperature and then give them a quick coarse chop before adding to the shells.

Make your own tenders

To make crispy chicken tenders from scratch, here’s my go-to recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • Salt, pepper, paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  1. Remove any fat from the chicken breasts and cut widthwise into a few large, even pieces.
  2. Grab three small bowls. Fill up the first with flour (Stir in some salt and pepper. Add some paprika if desired — about 1 teaspoon of each). Fill up the second with the two eggs. Add in 1 tablespoon of water and beat with a fork. Take the third bowl and fill it up with the Italian breadcrumbs.
  3. Place the chicken pieces in the flour and lightly cover, then quickly dip in the eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumbs (I use all of them for 1 pound of chicken). Repeat the process once more (double breading makes these super delicious): flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs for the second time.
  4. Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken pieces in the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side (turning the chicken once) until completely cooked through (165 degrees F).
  5. Remove to a cutting board to allow to slightly cool. Coarsely chop and add to the recipe.

Overhead view of the finished Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells, with someone scooping out a serving.

Chicken Parm Stuffed Shell tips

  • Cook a few extra shells. Occasionally a shell (or a few!) will break, so boil a few extra shells to use just in case. Eat leftover shells with marinara sauce!
  • Salt the pasta water. Make sure the jumbo pasta shells are well salted as they cook, since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. Read about how to properly salt your pasta water here. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water.
  • Stuff the shells efficiently. Add the cheese mixture to a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag. Press the cheese mixture to one side of the bag and using scissors, cut off a 1-inch opening in the corner. Squeeze the cheese mixture into each shell and gently press the mixture down to make sure the cheese fills 32 shells about 3/4 full.
  • Completely cover the shells with sauce. Aim to cover every part of the shells with marinara sauce so you don’t get crispy, overcooked edges of pasta.

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Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells

5 from 2 votes
These cheesy, marinara-covered Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells are a mash-up of two delicious dinners: stuffed shells and chicken parmesan!
Print Recipe

Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells

5 from 2 votes
These cheesy, marinara-covered Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells are a mash-up of two delicious dinners: stuffed shells and chicken parmesan!
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Keyword Chicken Parm Stuffed Shells
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 339kcal
Cost $7.32

Ingredients

Chicken & Shells

  • 32 jumbo pasta shells
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 and 1/2 cups cooked and chopped crispy chicken (See Note 1)

Cheese Filing

  • 1 container (15 oz.) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh basil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: dried oregano, dried thyme, dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (~2 cloves)

Topping

  • 1 jar (24 oz.) Rao's Marinara Sauce, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • PASTA SHELLS: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt (1 teaspoon for every 4 cups) and then add in the pasta shells. I usually cook a few extra in case some fall apart. Cook for 1 minute less than the package says to al dente. Drain the shells and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and allow them to be easily separated. Drain off any water and separate shells onto a sheet of parchment paper on the counter.
  • CHEESE FILLING: Place the ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup chopped basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried parsley, and minced garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper (I add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Stir until combined. Transfer this cheese mixture to a large (gallon sized) zippertop plastic bag. With scissors, snip 1-inch off the corner of the bag and "pipe" the cheese mixture into each of the 32 shells. Each shell should get a heaping 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture (which should fill 32 shells just over halfway full).
  • ASSEMBLY: Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce along the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Add cheese-stuffed shells in baking dish on top of the marinara. Press the chopped chicken pieces into each shell on top of the cheese mixture, using up all the chicken. Spoon remaining sauce over stuffed shells, being mindful to cover all the pasta so it doesn't dry out during baking.
  • BAKE: Cover dish with foil; bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
  • TOPPING: Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add panko; stir to coat. Cook and stir 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle over baked shells along with remaining 2 tablespoons basil. Enjoy hot!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I use Tyson's ® crispy chicken strips and bake according to package directions. Once baked, I let slightly cool and then chop into small bite-sized pieces.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.2g | Protein: 26.9g | Fat: 16.7g | Cholesterol: 75.8mg | Fiber: 3.3g | Sugar: 6.7g

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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The best way to enjoy chicken parmesan! In stuffed shells and smothered with a delicious marinara sauce
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20 Comments

  1. I’ve made so many different kinds of stuffed shells and I don’t plan on ever stopping and these look like my next suspects

  2. My husband actually makes a mean chicken parm himself, so I am the chicken parm fanatic in our scenario and this looks absolutely mouth watering!

  3. Chelsea, I literally want to eat my screen- It may not be one of your easier recipes but damn, it looks ridiculously delicious.

  4. I was a little skeptical…not because of the recipe but because of my super picky husband (he doesn’t like change). I used Tyson breaded chicken patties (because it’s already been a long week) and made a variation of the sauce…held my breath while my husband took a bite and was pleasantly surprised when he said it was “actually really good”. And he went back for seconds…and thirds! Winning!

  5. 5 stars
    AMAZING! I made this for my daughter’s birthday (she’s three) for supper and she LOVED it! Good thing I had leftovers as she devoured multiple shells the next day 🙂 I’ll definitely be making this again 🙂

    1. Yay!! I’m so happy this was a hit and your daughter enjoyed it! (Happy Birthday to her!) Thanks for the comment Daphne!

  6. Could this recipe be made to the point of baking and then frozen for use later? If so, what would be the thawing, baking process? I’m just curious. It’s so good, we would love to have it more often but it’s very time consuming!

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