Spicy Stuffed Shotgun Shells Recipe: A Cheesy, Meat-Filled Pasta Bake

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Published: 02/07/2024 | Updated: 02/09/2024

Discover the bold and savory world of shotgun shells, a unique stuffed shells recipe that’s taken outdoor cooking by storm. This dish features a tantalizing mixture of ground beef and Italian sausage, with a mingling of 1-pound hot Italian sausage and breakfast sausage stuffed into manicotti shells and wrapped in crispy bacon.

These shells will impress, perfect for a smoked appetizer or a conversation starter at your next barbecue event. Whether celebrating a special occasion or looking for a new favorite among grilling recipes, the shotgun shells recipe is a crowd-pleaser that brings the heat.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅓ cup barbecue sauce, plus more for brushing
  • 12 manicotti shells
  • 24 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon favorite BBQ rub
  • Cream cheese for filling
  • Sharp cheddar cheese for topping

Instructions

Step 1: Preheat the Oven

Begin by preheating the smoker to 250 degrees.

Step 2: Mix Your Ingredients

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 pound of hot Italian sausage with breakfast sausage, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ rub.

Step 3: Stuff the Manicotti Shells

Gently stuff the manicotti shells with this sausage mixture, ensuring no air pockets. Next, wrap each stuffed shell with two slices of bacon, securing them with toothpicks if necessary. Brush additional barbecue sauce over the bacon-wrapped shells for added flavor.

Step 4: Grill

Place the shotgun shells on the smoker grill grates and smoke for 1 hour at 250 degrees, turning them halfway through to ensure even cooking. Increase the temperature to 300 degrees during the last 15 minutes to crisp up the bacon.

Step 5: Serving

Once the bacon is crispy and the cheeses are melted, remove the shells from the smoker and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the moisture from the meat to redistribute, ensuring each bite is juicy and flavorful. Serve warm as a hearty smoked appetizer or main dish.

Optional Additions/Variations

The recipe offers plenty of room for creativity for those looking to customize their shotgun shells. Add pepper jack cheese for a spicy kick or finely chopped vegetables for additional texture and nutrition.

For a leaner option, substitute the pork sausage with turkey sausage and use low-fat cheeses. If you prefer a smokier taste, try various woods in your smoker, like hickory or mesquite. The flexibility of this recipe allows you to cater to different dietary needs and preferences while still delivering an explosion of flavors.

If you’re without a smoker, you can bake these shotgun shells in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the cheese is bubbly. Gluten-free manicotti shells can be used instead of traditional pasta for gluten-free diets.

Cooking Tips

When preparing shotgun shells, it’s essential to be gentle when stuffing the manicotti to prevent the pasta shells from breaking. Overfilling can cause the shells to burst during cooking, so be mindful of the quantity of filling used.

Additionally, cheese that melts well, such as mozzarella or Monterey Jack, will ensure a gooey and delicious center. For the bacon to reach crispy perfection without overcooking the filling, monitor the heat closely and consider using indirect heat if cooking on a grill.

Choosing your favorite wood for smoking will impart a distinct flavor to the dish, so experiment with different types to find your preferred taste. If using a smoker, maintain a consistent temperature to ensure even cooking.

If you’re using an air fryer, you can air fry them at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, checking periodically for doneness. Remember that the carryover heat will cook the shells slightly after removing them from the heat source, so allow them to rest before serving.

Equipment Needed

  • Smoker or oven
  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet (if using an oven)
  • Grill grates (for smoker or grill)
  • Air fryer (optional)
  • Basting brush
  • Toothpicks (for securing bacon)
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Cutting board and knife

Preparation Time

The total preparation time for shotgun shells will vary depending on whether you’re smoking, grilling, or baking them. Typically, expect to spend about 30 minutes preparing the ingredients and stuffing the shells.

Smoking will take approximately 60 minutes at 250 degrees, while baking in an oven or air frying may require a shorter cooking time. Allow an additional 10 minutes for the shells to rest after cooking. In total, allocate around 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete this recipe from start to finish.

Serving Suggestions

Shotgun shells are a hearty dish best served hot from the smoker or oven. They pair wonderfully with classic barbecue sides like coleslaw, baked beans, or cornbread. Opt for a fresh green salad or grilled vegetables for a lighter accompaniment.

Consider a cold beer or a glass of robust red wine as a beverage pairing to complement the smoky flavors. Present the shells on a platter garnished with fresh herbs or a drizzle of extra barbecue sauce for a delicious display.

Storage Instructions

To store leftover shotgun shells, place them in an airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. They can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the shells in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.

To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator if frozen, and bake on a baking sheet at 350 degrees until heated, about 15 minutes. Ensure the bacon is crispy and the filling is hot before serving again.

Recipe Notes

This dish is an excellent choice for party menus or potlucks. Opt for a milder sausage and skip the jalapeno for those who enjoy a smoky flavor without the heat. The shotgun shells are a versatile recipe that can be enjoyed year-round but are particularly fitting for fall and winter gatherings where hearty, warming dishes are appreciated.

If using a smoker, consider the type of wood you prefer. Each wood imparts a different flavor, and finding your favorite can make all the difference in the final taste. Applewood offers a subtly sweet note, while mesquite provides a stronger, earthier undertone. Your choice of wood will help personalize the shotgun shells to your taste preferences.

Spicy Stuffed Shotgun Shells Recipe: A Cheesy, Meat-Filled Pasta Bake

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
10 minutes
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Dinner/Lunch
Keyword: shotgun shells recipe
Author: Natalie

Equipment

  • Smoker or oven
  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet (if using an oven)
  • Grill grates (for smoker or grill)
  • Air fryer (optional)
  • Basting brush 
  • Toothpicks (for securing bacon)
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Cutting board and knife

Ingredients

  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅓ cup barbecue sauce, plus more for brushing
  • 12 manicotti shells
  • 24 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon favorite BBQ rub
  • Cream cheese for filling
  • Sharp cheddar cheese for topping

Instructions

Step 1: Preheat the Oven

  • Begin by preheating the smoker to 250 degrees.

Step 2: Mix Your Ingredients

  • In a mixing bowl, combine 1 pound of hot Italian sausage with breakfast sausage, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ rub.

Step 3: Stuff the Manicotti Shells

  • Gently stuff the manicotti shells with this sausage mixture, ensuring no air pockets. Next, wrap each stuffed shell with two slices of bacon, securing them with toothpicks if necessary. Brush additional barbecue sauce over the bacon-wrapped shells for added flavor.

Step 4: Grill

  • Place the shotgun shells on the smoker grill grates and smoke for 1 hour at 250 degrees, turning them halfway through to ensure even cooking. Increase the temperature to 300 degrees during the last 15 minutes to crisp up the bacon.

Step 5: Serving

  • Once the bacon is crispy and the cheeses are melted, remove the shells from the smoker and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the moisture from the meat to redistribute, ensuring each bite is juicy and flavorful. Serve warm as a hearty smoked appetizer or main dish.

Notes

  • This dish is an excellent choice for party menus or potlucks. Opt for a milder sausage and skip the jalapeno for those who enjoy a smoky flavor without the heat. The shotgun shells are a versatile recipe that can be enjoyed year-round but are particularly fitting for fall and winter gatherings where hearty, warming dishes are appreciated.
  • If using a smoker, consider the type of wood you prefer. Each wood imparts a different flavor, and finding your favorite can make all the difference in the final taste. Applewood offers a subtly sweet note, while mesquite provides a stronger, earthier undertone. Your choice of wood will help personalize the shotgun shells to your taste preferences.

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