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Pasta shells stuffed with a creamy three-cheese and chicken filling and topped with marinara, mozzarella and crispy bread crumbs. These Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells can be made in advance and freeze beautifully for an easy meal during busy times.
You’d never guess how easy these Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells are to prepare based on the end result. The dish looks and tastes far more complicated than it is.
The ingredient list is short and the prep is minimal. You can even get all of the prep out of the way a day in advance so that all you’ve got to do the next day is come home from work and pop this rustic casserole in the oven. So vital during the intensely busy back to school season.
I made this recipe even easier by utilizing rotisserie chicken (thank you, Costco) and my favorite store-bought pasta sauce. Take a look at the recipe card below for my brand recommendations.
How to Make Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells
The first step is to cook jumbo pasta shells according to the package directions for al dente. Rinse the shells with cool water and drain them well. Separate any nesting shells and transfer them to a large sheet of foil or a baking sheet. This will help prevent the cooked shells from sticking together.
Combine the ingredients for the filling in a large mixing bowl – ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, an egg, fresh basil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Combine the mixture well and then fold in chopped rotisserie chicken breast.
Coat the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch (or slightly larger) casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour about 1 cup of jarred pasta sauce into the dish.
Stuff each cooked shell with a heaping tablespoon of the filling and place them on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed shells. Cover the dish with foil and bake the dish at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the dish with mozzarella and a few tablespoons of Italian-style Panko bread crumbs.
Set the oven to BROIL and return the dish to the oven, uncovered, for just a couple of minutes. Watch it closely and remove it from the oven once the cheese has melted and the bread crumbs are toasted.
I like to garnish the dish with some chopped fresh basil.
Follow the directions as written but once you’ve topped the shells with the remaining marinara (and before baking), cover the dish with foil and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to bake the casserole, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow it sit on the kitchen counter to take the chill off while you preheat the oven. Follow the recipe directions for baking the dish, allowing a few extra minutes if the dish is still chilly when it goes in the oven.
Pasta dishes like this one are an excellent choice for freezing. Prepare the recipe as directed and after topping with the remaining sauce, cover the dish with heavy duty foil or two layers of regular foil, taking care to crimp it well around the edges. Transfer the dish to the freezer. It will keep well for up to three months.
When you’d like to serve it, allow it to defrost completely (and safely) overnight in your refrigerator. Bake and finish as directed in the recipe.
Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Shells
- 24 jumbo pasta shells (about ¾ of a 12 ounce box)
- 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 ½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves divided
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken breast (Costco has awesome roti chickens)
- 24 ounces marinara sauce (I like Mezzetta Marinara)
- 3 tablespoons Italian-style panko bread crumbs (like Progresso)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch or slightly larger baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- Cook and drain pasta as directed on package for al dente (my Barilla shells took 9 minutes). Rinse with cool water and drain well. Separate any nesting shells and transfer them to a large sheet of foil or a baking sheet.
- For the filling, in a large mixing bowl combine ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, 2 tablespoons of the basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well.
- Spread about 1 cup of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Fill each shell with heaping tablespoon of the ricotta/chicken mixture. Place stuffed shells in the baking dish. Spoon remaining sauce over the shells.
- Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
- Remove dish from oven and set oven to BROIL. Remove the foil and sprinkle the shells with remaining mozzarella and top with the panko bread crumbs. Place dish in the oven, watching closely, and cook for just a couple of minutes until cheese has melted and bread crumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil before serving.