Recipe: Post-Thanksgiving Stuffed Shells

published Nov 25, 2016
Post-Thanksgiving Stuffed Shells
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

This seasonal twist on classic stuffed shells keeps the tender cooked pasta, the ricotta, and the stringy, melted mozzarella cheese, but ditches traditional filling for the flavors of Thanksgiving. And we mean that literally! These shells are stuffed with stuffing, roasted vegetables, and even bits of leftover turkey.

If you love a next-day turkey sandwich, you have to try this quirky twist on Thanksgiving leftovers.

The Best Leftovers for Stuffed Shells

This recipe is made to be flexible — an essential quality when it comes to leftovers. Think of it as more of a template full of suggestions rather than a strict recipe.

  • Got turkey? Shred or chop it, and mix it into the ricotta filling.
  • Got veggies? Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, winter squash, and even cranberry sauce have a place in this seasonal spin on stuffed shells.
  • Got other fixings? Have other leftovers you think will work? Go ahead and mix those in as well. Any combination of ingredients that sounds good to you will work for this recipe.

Swap Marinara for Bechamel

Instead of classic marinara sauce, this recipe calls for neutral bechamel. Bechamel is a simple sauce made from butter, flour, and milk. It’s lightly seasoned with nutmeg and simmered until it becomes rich and velvety. Use it to coat the stuffed shells as they bake to prevent them from drying out.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Post-Thanksgiving Stuffed Shells

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 30

    jumbo pasta shells (12 ounces)

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups

    whole milk, at room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 1 1/2 cups

    ricotta cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups

    shredded cooked turkey

  • 2 cups

    Thanksgiving leftover vegetables (any combination of Brussels sprouts, mashed or roasted sweet potatoes, greens, winter squash, green bean casserole), diced

  • 1/4 cup

    cranberry sauce (optional)

  • 1 cup

    shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the shells and cook until tender. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water to make them cool enough to handle; set aside.

  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until completely combined. The mixture will look like wet sand. Cook until the mixture begins to dry out and turn golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

  4. Gradually whisk in a little bit of the milk, then whisk in the remainder and continue whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. Remove the pan from the heat.

  5. Stir the ricotta, turkey, vegetables, and cranberry sauce (if using) together in a large bowl.

  6. Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish.

  7. Stuff each shell with about 1 heaping tablespoon of turkey filling and place in the dish seam-side up. If some shells split during the cooking process, you may have a few fragments left over, but you should end up with about 2-dozen shells in the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the cheese.

  8. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 12 minutes more. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The shells can be stuffed up to 1 day in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.