Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells are an easy to prepare, colorful and fresh main dish that is perfect for both everyday and entertaining.

overhead of casserole dish filled with shells stuffed with ground turkey and vegetables

Healthy Stuffed Shells with Ground Turkey

I was intimidated by stuffed shells for years – they just looked so complicated to prepare. But, I did love the presentation, and the deliciousness. Once I finally decided to give them a go, I found they’re surprisingly easy to make, and now I serve them all the time.

Ingredients for Turkey Stuffed Shells

These Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells are not only impressive looking and scrumptious, they’re healthy too. A savory, flavorful mixture of turkey sausage, carrots, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, cream cheese and herbs is stuffed into pretty pasta shells, and baked with marinara sauce. Easy to prepare ahead, and can be frozen, too!

How to Make Ground Turkey Stuffed Shells

Here are the easy step by step instructions to make these satisfying shells:

  1. Prep oven and baking dish.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch (or 7- by 11-inch) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cook shells.
    Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside (to cool and dry out).
  3. Cook sausage and vegetables.
    While shells are cooking, spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add turkey sausage, carrot, zucchini, pepper and onion and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and veggies are tender. Drain off fat.
  4. Add cream cheese and seasonings.
    Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese, basil, dill and garlic powder and keep stirring until combined and cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  5. Add marinara to baking dish.
    Spread around 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared dish.
  6. Stuff shells.
    Spoon about 3 tablespoons of turkey mixture into pasta shells and arrange, filled side up, over sauce in prepared dish.
  7. Top with marinara sauce and bake.
    Spoon remaining marinara sauce around and over the top of the stuffed shells. Bake, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until hot.
  8. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.
    Remove from oven, remove cover, sprinkle shells with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Sides to Serve with Stuffed Shells with Turkey

Serve these amazing shells with a salad and some delicious bread. A few ideas:

  • Caesar Salad
  • Lemon Dijon Dress Spinach Salad
  • Spinach Salad with Lemon Pine Nut Dressing
  • Parmesan Buttermilk Cornbread
  • Anise Bread
  • Herb Quick Bread
close up image of 2 pasta shells stuffed with turkey and vegetables

Storing and Reheating Stuffed Shells with Ground Turkey

Shells can be prepared but not baked earlier in the day, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking. It can also be baked ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before reheating in a 325-degree oven.

FAQ for Jumbo Stuffed Shells

Can I freeze stuffed shells with cream cheese?

Yes, you can freeze this pasta dish after baking. Wrap well, refrigerate and then, when chilled, freeze for up to 1month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, and reheat in a 325-degree oven.

What is the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?

Both manicotti and jumbo shells are designed to be stuffed. The difference is in their shape; Manicotti is long tubes, while shells are shaped like conch shells.

Why do stuffed shells get watery?

These stuffed shells won’t get watery as long as you drain the precooked shells well. For other stuffed shell recipes calling for ricotta or cottage cheese, make sure to drain those ingredients well, too – they both contain liquid that can make your finished dish watery.

Can I use manicotti instead of shells?

Yes you can substitute manicotti for jumbo shells in this recipe – but I find manicotti trickier to stuff without tearing the pasta.

What are the largest pasta shells?

Pasta shells (or Conchiglie in Italian) come in three sizes – mini, medium and large (or jumbo). Large shells are the most commonly used for stuffing, the medium and mini shells in soups or pasta salads.

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overhead of casserole dish filled with shells stuffed with ground turkey and vegetables

Turkey Stuffed Shells

  • Author: (From “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®” by Sally Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: main dish, pasta, poultry, healthy

Description

These Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells are impressive looking, scrumptious, and, an added bonus – they’re healthy too, using ground turkey, lots of veggies and small amounts of cheese.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 12 to 15 jumbo macaroni shells
  • 8 ounces ground turkey (or chicken) sausage
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 cup finely chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup finely chopped red or green pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into squares
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch (or 7- by 11-inch) baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside (to cool and dry out).
  3. While the pasta is cooking, spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the turkey sausage, carrot, zucchini, pepper and onion and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink and the veggies are tender. Drain off fat.
  4. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese, basil, dill and garlic powder and keep stirring until combined and the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  5. Spread around 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared dish.
  6. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of turkey mixture into 12 pasta shells and arrange, filled side up, over sauce in prepared dish. Spoon remaining 1 cup marinara sauce around and over the top of the stuffed shells. Bake, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Notes

Note: I suggest preparing 15 empty shells because it’s likely that one or two will tear in either the cooking or stuffing process. That way you will definitely have 12 stuffed shells in the end!

Make ahead: Shells can be prepared but not baked earlier in the day, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Can also be baked, cooled, wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.

Lee Clayton Roper

Welcome!

I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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