I created this Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells recipe in 2011, in an attempt to do something “not Italian” with pasta. I experimented, focusing on my family’s love of Mexican and southwest flavors. The happy result was these Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells.
My recipe makes enough to feed a crowd (about 40 shells) and it freezes easily. My favorite prep session for the cheesy, southwest-inspired stuffed shells is to prepare them into a variety of foil pans for the freezer and still have one for our dinner, that night. Then, I have plenty for future meals, as well as to share with friends or family who just need a break from cooking for a night.
Leftovers heat up beautifully in the microwave and the flavor is as cheesy, spicy-satisfying as the night the Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells were originally made.
How to Make Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells
Start with any pre-cooking and chopping you need to do. If you don’t have pre-cooked chicken in your freezer, (We need to talk. 🙂 ) that’s the first order of business. You want to prep enough to make 4 cups of chopped chicken. That’s probably 4 or 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts. Rotisserie chicken, or even leftover chicken if you have enough, would work really well, too.
You also need to pre-cook your pasta shells. Leave them slightly al dente (cooked, but with a firm bite). The shells will continue to cook as you bake them, so you don’t want them to be too soft. They will also be easier to stuff.
Chop the cooked chicken into ⅜‑inch or smaller cubes. You could shred it, too, if you prefer that texture. Mince the peppers and green onions. Once you have this little bit of prep done, the recipe goes together quickly. One of the best investments I ever made was a *high-quality chef’s knife for my kitchen. It makes my cutting and chopping jobs go so much more quickly and smoothly. When it fits your budget, it’s a tool I highly recommend.
Put the chopped chicken and veggies in a large mixing bowl and add black beans.
Mix Up the Sauce
In a separate bowl, mix together softened cream cheese, cumin, tomatoes with chiles (like Rotel) and chicken broth. This sauce adds scrumptious flavor to the Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells. As a photo, it’s not particularly appealing, but I wanted you to see how it looks mixed up. It won’t be smooth and I wanted you to see you’re doing it right.
Pour the sauce over the chicken, beans and veggies in the other bowl. Mix until the filling is thoroughly combined. Now, you’re ready to stuff the shells.
Add salsa or picante sauce to the bottom of a large rectangular baking pan. I used a 13x18x2 pan, for this batch, but you could use two 9x13s or even four 8x8 pans.
Prepare the Pan and Stuff the Shells
You’re ready to stuff the pasta shells. Use a spoon to scoop mixture into each cooked shell. Fill them full and then place them into the prepared baking pan.
Once the pan is full, drizzle the remaining picante or salsa over the prepared shells. Then spread the grated Mexican blend cheese over the whole pan. You can use sharp cheddar, if you prefer, but I find that the Mexican blend melts more easily.
Securely cover the pan (or pans) with foil. At this point you can freeze for later use, or bake the Mexican Stuffed Shells at 350° for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and serve Mexican Stuffed Shells with a big green salad or your favorite steamed veggies. They’re going to blow your mind!
Hearty, delicious chicken and pasta dish with a little southwestern flair. The stuffed shells are mildly spicy. Make them for company and you’ll be the hit of the party!
- 4 cups chicken breast, cooked and chopped or shredded
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 6 green onions, sliced thin
- 2 large bell peppers (any color), minced
- 2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened (not melted)
- 2 cans diced tomatoes with chiles (don’t drain) (Rotel or store brand, either works)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1½ cups shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
- 1 cup of salsa or picante sauce + extra for drizzling
- 40 large pasta shells, cooked al dente
- Cook pasta shells in well salted, boiling water until al dente (still have a little bite to them). If you cook them too long, they will be difficult to stuff. They are going to have additional cooking time in the oven. Drain the pasta and set aside while you make the filling.
- Cook and dice, or shred, enough chicken breast to make 4 cups.
- To assemble the filling, mix diced chicken, drained black beans, green onions, diced peppers, and cumin in a large mixing bowl. Thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, chicken stock and undrained tomatoes with chiles. When the sauce is combined, pour it over the chicken mixture and mix well.
- Spread 1 c. salsa or picante sauce in the bottom of a large baking pan. (I used an 18x12x2, but I’m guessing that two 9×13s or four 8x8s would also work.)
- Using a spoon, or your fingers, fill each of your cooked and cooled pasta shells, setting them into the picante covered pan. Continue until all shells are filled and arranged in the pan.
- When the pan is full, drizzle the shells with a little more salsa or picante and then sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
- Cover the baking pan tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
I also think the addition of 2 cups of frozen corn to the filling would be really good.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 30
- Category: Main Dish
- Cuisine: Mexican