Anita and I have been noticing recipes for shotgun shells around the internet for a bit now. They’re manicotti shells stuffed with a meat and cheese mixture and wrapped in bacon. Most folks are smoking them for a few hours, then finishing them over high heat to get the bacon cooked. We decided to use just a gas grill (although you can just as easily use a charcoal grill!) to make grilled shotgun shells. For a little smoke we added a small smoke box full of hickory pellets. The end result was out-of-this-world fantastic. Crispy bacon, cheesy spinach and sausage stuffing, all with a slight hint of smoke. It’s impossible to stop eating them!
There are a hundred ways of making shotgun shells. But, we really liked the simplicity of using a gas grill. No need to go from low-and-slow to high-and-fast to get the bacon done, it cooked to perfection in 45 minutes. No turning, flipping, nothing. Just put the stuffed shells on the grill and wait for the magic to happen.
Because we like a little kick to our dishes, we ended up using a spicy BBQ seasoning on top of the shells. You can use any seasoning you like. We recommend that you stay away from anything that contains a lot of sugar since the high grill temperature might burn the seasoning.
If you’re using a charcoal grill, just make sure you keep the temperature 350 F, or even a touch lower. You’ll want to light your charcoal 30-45 minutes or so before you plan on starting to cook the shells. If you want a bit of smoky flavor, add a chunk or two of hickory once the coals are lit.
Grilled Shotgun Shells
For the stuffing
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 large egg
- 16 ounces Ricotta cheese
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach thawed completely
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese shredded or grated
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs unseasoned
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the shells
- kosher salt
- 12 ounces manicotti shells usually 14 to a package
- 14 slices bacon thin-cut
- favorite BBQ seasoning
- ½ cup marinara sauce warmed
- fresh parsley chopped, for garnish
For the stuffing
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add onion and cook until just starting to soften.
- Crumble in the sausage and cook until done. Break up the sausage more as it cooks.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Break the egg into a large bowl and beat with a whisk or fork.
- Stir in the Ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, basil, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked sausage mixture and stir until well combined.
For the shells
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to taste.
- Add the shells and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. You don't want to fully cook the shells.
- Remove the shells to a strainer to drain the water then transfer to a baking sheet to cool slightly.
- Carefully stuff each shell with the sausage mixture. Don't press too hard or you'll tear the shells. You want to fill them right up to the ends.
- Wrap each shell in a piece of bacon then return to the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the bacon all around with the BBQ seasoning.
- Place baking sheet in the fridge for 4-6 hours for everything to set before cooking.
Cooking the shells
- Fire up your grill for indirect cooking at 350 F.
- Transfer the shells to the grill and cook for 45 minutes or until the bacon is done and just starting to crisp. I start checking them every 5 minutes after 30 minutes to make sure the shells don't get too crispy and the bacon isn't over-cooked.
- Serve shells garnished with parsley along with warm marinara for dipping or drizzling.
Nutritional values are approximate.