Creamy Seafood-Stuffed Shells Recipe

spoon scooping a stuffed shell
spoon scooping a stuffed shell - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Some of the best dishes take time. Lasagna, for example, requires cooked pasta, a cooked filling, and a (preferably homemade) cooked sauce. Stuffed shells are similar in that they are the sum of many parts, a long prep to eventually achieve a casserole dish of cheesy goodness. Perhaps, though, that is why such dishes are regarded so highly in kitchens around the world. Every palette recognizes a lovingly prepared dinner.

That being said, stuffed shells are probably not your weeknight go-to, so why not make them as special as possible? Splurge a little with this recipe shared by developer Michelle McGlinn; luscious lump crab joins fresh shrimp and Old Bay for a just-barely spicy filling stuffed inside jumbo shells, then is coated in a rich and creamy tomato sauce. Want to really go for gold here? Swap the shrimp for lobster. Either way, your guests will be seriously impressed (so save this one for the in-laws).

Read more: 13 Canned Fish Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

Gather The Ingredients For Seafood-Stuffed Shells

ingredients on a table
ingredients on a table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

First, pick up jumbo pasta shells. These are about 3 inches wide. If you can't find large shells, you can also make this recipe with manicotti which are about the same size. For the stuffing, pick up lump crab meat, fresh shrimp, garlic, lemon, cream cheese, Old Bay seasoning, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Lump crab meat is usually sold in cans or small containers -- you're looking for cooked crab meat. You can also use special crab meat or claw meat, just be sure to remove any shells and roughly chop before using.

You'll reuse the parsley, garlic, and pepper flakes later, so be sure to grab extra. For the sauce, you'll need butter, onion, tomato paste, cognac (or brandy), tomato purée, and heavy whipping cream. You'll need salt and pepper to season the filling and sauce, then, just grab some parmesan cheese to melt over top.

Cook The Filling

stirring crab mixture in skillet
stirring crab mixture in skillet - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Before stuffing the shells, the shrimp and aromatics need to be cooked and the cream cheese melted to form a filling. Shrimp cooks quickly and the crab is already cooked, so this will be fast. Toss the shrimp, crab, and garlic together until shrimp is pink and garlic is fragrant. Add lemon juice, then melt the cream cheese into the mixture, stirring constantly to avoid sticking or burning. The cream cheese should melt into a smooth, thick sauce. Season generously, then remove from the heat.

Make The Sauce

stirring pasta sauce in skillet
stirring pasta sauce in skillet - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

If you've made vodka sauce, you'll be familiar with this process (and can even swap for vodka, if you prefer). Sauté the onion and garlic until soft, then add the tomato paste and cook until the paste is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pot. Deglaze using the cognac, scraping up the caramelized tomato from the bottom of the pot. Once the cognac is reduced by about half, add the tomato purée and heavy cream and stir. Simmer until thickened, then remove from the heat.

Stuff The Shells

stuffed shells in casserole dish
stuffed shells in casserole dish - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Spread the sauce across the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish, then set up a shell-filling station. Using a small, narrow spoon, scoop the crab filling into the shells, filling until shells are stuffed by not overflowing. By doing this, you should be able to fill 20 shells generously. As you fill each shell, arrange the pasta into the casserole dish, nestling firmly into the sauce.

Bake And Serve

baked shells in casserole dish
baked shells in casserole dish - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Baking the shells not only melts the cheese, but turns the dish into a casserole instead of a pasta. Generously grate cheese over the shells then bake until cheese is melty and sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes at 350 F. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley and pepper flakes to serve.

If you're making this dish ahead of time, put it all together, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill the entire dish until ready to serve. Then just pop it in the oven and bake until heated through -- see, we told you it was perfect for guests. If you aren't planning a party, leftovers save well, too. However, because there's so much cream, we recommend against freezing it. Refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container for up to a week for quick and easy dinners throughout the week, and serve with leafy green salads or roasted vegetables to cut the richness a bit (that, and it never hurts to eat your vegetables).

Creamy Seafood-Stuffed Shells Recipe

stuffed shell on plate
stuffed shell on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Prep Time: 10mCook Time: 40mYield: 4 ServingsIngredients

  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, roughly chopped

  • 8 ounces shrimp, roughly chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided

  • Juice from ½ lemon

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided, plus more for topping

  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, divided, plus more for topping

  • Salt and pepper, as needed

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced

  • ¼ cup tomato paste

  • ½ cup cognac

  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato purée

  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream

  • 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (20 shells), cooked

  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp, crab meat, and 2 cloves minced garlic and cook until shrimp is pink and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  3. Add the lemon juice and stir, then add the cream cheese cubes and stir until completely melted, about 3-4 minutes. Add the Old Bay seasoning, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.

  4. Melt the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic and onion and cook until soft.

  5. Add the tomato paste and stir into the vegetables to combine. Cook until beginning to stick to the bottom of the skillet, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the skillet with the cognac, then bring to a simmer and reduce by about half.

  6. Add the tomato purée and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Add the remaining red pepper flakes and parsley, then simmer until mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper

  7. Transfer the sauce to the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Using a small spoon, stuff the shells with the crab mixture until full but not overstuffed. Arrange in the dish, nestling into the sauce.

  8. Grate the parmesan over the stuffed shells, then place in the oven and bake until cheese is melted, 20-25 minutes.

  9. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley and red pepper flakes to serve.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.