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Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto

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Got some leftover turkey? Skip the soup and make these flavor-packed Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto instead! Easy to make and crazy delicious, this stuffed shell recipe is always a dinner winner!

Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto in a black cast iron pan.

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This is such a pretty recipe, and because it’s not particularly saucy, the shells get a little crispy on the bottom, which adds so much texture! These Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto are a tasty departure from tomato sauce-based pasta dishes or those with heavy cream sauces. Instead, this one is light and delicious, and you can really taste the turkey and pesto.

I make this easy stuffed shell recipe with store-bought pesto, but you can make your own and use that. And, when you make it with leftover Thanksgiving turkey (it’s doubly amazing with smoked turkey), it’s even easier! I’ve also made this dish with ground turkey and ground chicken, so it’s really versatile.

I love making this dish in a round cast iron pan that goes from oven to table, but you can use any shallow casserole dish to make this stunning main dish.

What you’ll love about Turkey STuffed SHells with Pesto


  • It’s a hearty and satisfying meal!
  • Great use of leftover turkey!
  • Easily doubled and freezer friendly!

Ingredients

  • Giant pasta shells – You’ll need about 20 shells.
  • Cooking spray
  • Leftover turkey – A combination of white and dark meat is terrific, but use what you’ve got. You can also use leftover smoked turkey.
  • Ricotta – Look for extra creamy ricotta if you can find it. Whole fat is always tastier.
  • Egg
  • Green onions – They add a lovely pop of flavor without the harshness of yellow onions.
  • Garlic powder – Garlic powder, not salt.
  • Parsley – Fresh parsley.
  • Lemon – A squeeze of fresh lemon juice really brightens up the flavors.
  • Crushed red pepper – Omit if you don’t care for the spice.
  • Mozzarella – Shredded mozzarella goes into the filling.
  • Pecorino cheese – Shredded or grated for the topping. You can also use Parmesan.
  • Butter – For the topping.
  • Panko bread crumbs – For the topping.
  • Pesto – Store-bought or homemade.
Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto ingredients with labels.

How To Make The Best Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto

For a complete list of ingredients and instructions, please scroll to the recipe at the bottom of this page.

  1. Boil salted water in a large pot and cook the pasta shells until they are quite al dente. You want them still firm enough to hold their shape. Drain and cool the shells under cold running water when cooked, then set them aside.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375-F and spray a casserole dish or 10-inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray.
  3. Mix the turkey, ricotta, egg, green onion, garlic powder, parsley, lemon juice, crushed chili flakes, and mozzarella cheese in a large bowl.
  4. Stuff the shells. Hold a pasta shell in one hand and scoop the filling with a spoon and fill each shell until it is quite filled and slightly mounded on the top.
  5. Repeat with all the shells, laying them in the casserole dish in a single layer.
  6. Melt the butter and mix it with the Panko bread crumbs in a small bowl. Mix in the pecorino cheese.
  7. Sprinkle the bread crumb-cheese mixture over the top of the shells and bake them in the preheated 375-F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through.
  8. Drizzle with pesto before serving, and enjoy!

Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto in a black serving dish.

Chef Jenn’s Tips

  • You can make the shells and filling ahead of time to save some time. Cook the shells, then drain and cool them and package them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. The filling can also be prepped ahead and time and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.
  • Don’t omit the ricotta cheese – the pasta shells will finish cooking in the oven, but they need the moisture from the ricotta to do so.
  • No pecorino? You can use Parmesan cheese instead.
  • Use store-bought pesto to save a bit of time.
  • You can prep this entire meal ahead of time and bake it when ready.
  • Cover with foil if the topping starts to get too brown.

Recommended

Make It A Meal

This hearty leftover turkey recipe is already a pretty complete meal. Round out your meal with a nice tossed salad and a great salad dressing, chopped veggies and garlic dip, or skip right to dessert with tasty cookies like these air fryer oatmeal raisin cookies.

Storage

Pack any leftover Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. Don’t keep your leftover turkey for more than 5-6 days in total, even if it has been repurposed in another recipe like this one. You can also freeze these shells. Pack them in an airtight container and freeze them for up to a month.

Step By Step Process

Turkey stuffed shells with pesto in a serving dish.
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Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto

The filling is the star of this dish. Filled with tender turkey, cheese, herbs, and more, it's light and creamy, and delicious. Drizzled with pesto, this is a show-stopping dish that's easy to make and always impressive!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword baked pasta, leftover turkey, pasta, pesto, shells, smoked turkey, turkey, turkey stuffed shells with pesto
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 646kcal
Author Chef Jenn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound pasta shells about 20 shells
  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups turkey cubed small
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 2 green onions white and green parts, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the topping

  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino cheese shredded or grated, or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup pesto

Instructions

  • Boil salted water in a large pot and cook the pasta shells until they are quite al dente. You want them still firm enough to hold their shape. Drain and cool the shells under cold running water when cooked, then set them aside.
  • Preheat your oven to 375-F and spray a casserole dish or 10-inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray.
  • Mix the turkey, ricotta, egg, green onion, garlic powder, parsley, lemon juice, crushed chili flakes, and mozzarella cheese in a large bowl.
  • Stuff the shells. Hold a pasta shell in one hand and scoop the filling with a spoon and fill each shell until it is quite filled and slightly mounded on the top.
  • Repeat with all the shells, laying them side-by-side in a single layer in the casserole dish.
  • Melt the butter and mix it with the Panko bread crumbs in a small bowl. Mix in the pecorino cheese.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumb-cheese mixture over the top of the shells and bake them in the preheated 375-F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through.
  • Drizzle with pesto before serving, and enjoy!

Notes

  • You can make the shells and filling ahead of time to save some time. Cook the shells, then drain and cool them and package them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. The filling can also be prepped ahead and time and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.
  • Don’t omit the ricotta cheese – the pasta shells will finish cooking in the oven, but they need the moisture from the ricotta to do so.
  • No pecorino? You can use Parmesan cheese instead.
  • Use store-bought pesto to save a bit of time.
  • You can prep this entire meal ahead of time and bake it when ready.
  • Cover with foil if your topping starts to get too brown.

Nutrition

Serving: 5shells | Calories: 646kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 153mg | Sodium: 608mg | Potassium: 394mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1329IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 403mg | Iron: 2mg

A Note on Nutritional Information

Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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Turkey stuffed shells with pesto in a serving dish.
By Chef Jenn

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