This post is all about Chicken Scampi Stuffed Pasta Shells, a creamy white wine lemony sauce loaded with garlic, butter and topped with lots cheese.
Chicken scampi stuffed pasta shells are a variation of the popular shrimp scampi, but uses tender chicken instead of shrimp. Sure, you can make this with linguini and it’s delicious but if you haven’t stuffed pasta shells before, I highly recommend trying this.
The texture is outstanding and they burst with flavor in each bite. It’s a unique way to serve pasta and looks impressive on the table. It doesn’t hurt that these stuffed shells are easy to make ahead. You can prepare this dish and stuff the shells, then cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.
Ironically, the word chicken scampi doesn’t make much sense. Scampi actually means shrimp and there is no shrimp in this recipe. But we have all come to know the flavor profile of the Shrimp Scampi dish – a buttery, lemony white wine sauce over noodles.
So we are using the same preparation just replacing shrimp for chicken. If you really think about it, the word Shrimp Scampi makes no sense either since it translates to “shrimp shrimp” but I digress!
This recipe post is all about how to make Chicken Scampi Stuffed Shells!
Key Ingredients for Scampi Stuffed Pasta Shells:
- Chicken: I use tenders in this recipe but chicken breast or thighs work too.
- Jumbo Pasta Shells: these are usually found at most supermarkets but I’ve had issues locating from time to time. Amazon has them as well
- Seasonings & Aromatics: fresh garlic, fresh parsley, paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- White Wine: the star of this dish that gives this pasta so much flavor. The alcohol reduces and evaporates so I don’t recommend substituting this.
- Chicken Stock and Pasta Water: a combination of stock (to add flavor) and pasta water (to thicken the sauce) is used.
- Lemon – fresh lemon juice and zest are used to brighten up the dish and add tang.
- Heavy Cream – to round out the tanginess from the lemon and white wine and add the perfect touch of creaminess.
- Cheese: Parmesan and mozzarella and cheddar are used.
How to Make Chicken Scampi Stuffed Pasta Shells:
This easy recipe can be thrown together in less than an hour and makes for a great weeknight meal but it’s also just as impressive to serve to guests.
The preparation breaks down into four easy steps:
Cook the chicken: dice, season, and cook the chicken until cooked through. Set aside.
Boil the Shells: Once the chicken is cooked and you’re about to start your sauce, it’s time to get the water boiling for the shells.
Make The Sauce: In the same pan you made the chicken in, add butter and garlic and saute until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the wine and cook until it reduces, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining butter and all other sauce ingredients. Simmer the sauce until it thickens, taste as adjust as needed.
Stuff the Shells & Bake: To a bowl add diced chicken and a 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, toss to combine. In a 9×13 greased casserole dish, add 1/2 cup of sauce to the bottom of the dish and spread around to coat most of the bottom.
Stuff each shell with a large spoonful of the chicken and cheese mixture. Place the shells into the casserole dish placing them side by side. Pour over the warm sauce evenly over the shells to coat each one.
Then add remaining cheese over the tops. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and melted.
Can I Use Shrimp Instead?
Yes, you can absolutely substitute this chicken in the scampi for shrimp. It’ll make a true shrimp scampi and it would fit perfectly inside the shells. You could also use crumbled spicy Italian sausage.
Here is how to make Shrimp Scampi Stuffed Shells:
- Step 1
In a large skillet, melt butter then add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine, salt, red pepper flakes and plenty of black pepper and bring to a simmer. Let wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
- Step 2
Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending upon their size. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and zest. Remove shrimp and allow them to rest. Follow remaining instructions below in my recipe card for stuffing shells, making the cream sauce and baking. Add 1-2 shrimp per shell (depending on the size of the shrimp).
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Chicken Scampi Stuffed Pasta Shells
- 2 lbs. chicken tenders, diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 oz. Jumbo pasta shells
- 3 cups shredded cheese, divided monterey jack, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons softenend butter, divided
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp reserved chicken seasoning
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine good enough to drink
- 2/3 cup chicken stock or broth
- 1/3 cup pasta water
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup parmesan
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Prep & Cook Chicken
- Mix together the chicken seasoning ingredients. Reserve 1 tsp of the seasoning mix and set aside. Add diced chicken to a bowl or zip top bag with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add remaining seasoning mixture to chicken and toss until well coated and evenly seasoned.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium high. Add 2 tabelspoons of olive oil and add chicken and cook until internal temp reaches 165 degrees. Transfer chicken to a large bowl, tent with foil and set aside.
Make Scampi Sauce
- In the same pan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons of butter and the garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and allow it to reduce to 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes. In a seperate pot, boil the water for the pasta shells and cook to al dente (according to the package instructions).
- Whisk in remaining butter until melted. Add the red pepper flakes and reserved seasoning mixture and salt and pepper along with chicken stock, lemon zest and juice, heavy cream, parmesan, and chopped parsley. Allow it to thicken then add the pasta water and continue to simmer until sauce it slightly thickened. Taste
Stuff The Shells & Bake
- To the bowl of diced chicken add half the shredded cheese. Toss to combine. In a greased 9x13 baked dish, spread 1/2 cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Stuff each shell with a large spoonful of the chicken/cheese mixture then place them side by side into the pan. Pour the remaining sauce mixture evenly on top of the stuffed shells. You may need to spoon excess sauce into any shells that are missed.
- Top the saucy shells evenly with the remaining 1.5 cups of shredded cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.