Mexican Stuffed Shells are a cheesy, meaty dinner recipe with ground chicken sausage, jumbo pasta shells, and enchilada-cheese sauce. A delicious fusion of spicy Mexican flavors with Italian pasta. A perfect weeknight meal.
My family has always loved pasta dinners. From carbonara to puttanesca, we would happily eat pasta several nights a week. But sometimes the classics can get boring. That’s why we love this unique twist on Italian stuffed shells.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe: This satisfying dish is comforting and kid-friendly. Instead of tomato sauce, it uses salsa and enchilada sauce. Instead of ground beef, chicken sausage. The result is more flavorful and festive!
Update: This recipe is an old favorite, so I’ve updated it with new helpful tips and photos.
How to Make Mexican Stuffed Shells
If you’ve made Italian manicotti before, this recipe is quite similar. What’s different is that instead of the savory tomato sauce, you’ll use jarred salsa and enchilada sauce, and jumbo shell pasta.
You can use your favorite variety of salsa, chunky or smooth will both work. I usually use mild salsa to accommodate my family, but if you like spice, go for medium or hot!
The sauce gets thickened from cream cheese. I often use reduced-fat to lighten up the calories, but full-fat cream cheese will also work.
The other swap I make is to use chicken sausage rather than ground beef. It’s an easy way to instantly add a flavor boost.
You can use any flavor of ground chicken sausage you like, just keep in mind that hot sausage and hot salsa will add major heat to the dish! Of course if you prefer, you can sub ground beef as well.
Toppings for Mexican Stuffed Shells
This is ready to eat straight out of the oven, but we often like to dress up the dish with a few fresh toppings.
You may like to try:
- Sliced green onions/scallions
- Pitted black olives
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- More salsa!
Can I Double or Halve the Recipe?
This recipe makes 14 to 16 shells. You can certainly double or halve it to fit your needs, though you’ll want to use a smaller baking dish (probably 8×8) for a half recipe. Likewise, you’ll need two 9×13-inch baking dishes for a double recipe.
You can freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to three months. Reheat covered with aluminum foil in the oven when you’re ready to serve.
More Mexican-Inspired Recipes
Whether you’re planning a Cinco de Mayo menu or just love fresh and fiery Mexican flavors, try these other favorites too:
- Chorizo Corn Black Bean Breakfast Casserole is loaded with corn, sausage, beans, tomatoes, and chilis.
- Mexican Pizza – this is an easy, shortcut recipe, it is a popular weeknight recipe for cheesy, tomato-topped pizza with Mexican flavors.
- Mexican Pinto Bean Soup from Pressure Cooking Today is a bit spicy and totally satisfying, thanks to beans and pork.
Mexican Stuffed Shells
- 1 lb. ground chicken sausage
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- dash cayenne powder
- 1 cup water
- 4 oz. cream cheese I used reduced fat
- 14-16 jumbo pasta shells
- 1.5 cup mild salsa
- 1 cup enchilada sauce
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 cup monterey jack cheese
- Diced green onions olives and sour cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 350°. In a frying pan cook ground sausage. Stir in spices and water and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes until the water cooks off. Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well. Set aside to cool.
- Cook the pasta shells according to directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board/baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.
- Pour salsa on bottom of 9″x13″ baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place shells in 9″x13″ pan open side up. Cover shells with enchilada sauce and sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, bake uncovered 10-15 minutes until cheese starts to brown.
- Serve with green onions, black olives, sour cream and/or more salsa.