Celebrate Special Moments with Decadent Seafood Pasta!
Somewhere along the line, a big piece of red meat became the go-to centerpiece for special occasion dinners. Don’t get me wrong, my family loves to celebrate with a beautiful prime rib or cast-iron steak, but lately I’ve been on a mission to create some special seafood dinners for our pescatarian & fish-loving friends. Earlier this year we shared an epic Salmon Wellington recipe, & today we’re adding to the collection with these Creamy Seafood Stuffed Shells.
These stuffed seafood shells are decadent, delicious, & absolutely loaded with seafood! Each jumbo pasta shell is stuffed to the brim with tender shrimp, scallops, & lump crab meat (though you can use whatever fish or seafood you love most), then they’re smothered in a rich & creamy béchamel sauce laced with Old Bay, finished with a sprinkling of crispy panko breadcrumbs, & baked until golden & bubbling.
Set the seafood stuffed shells down at the center of a Sunday supper or holiday dinner spread & everyone will be so impressed – especially folks who don’t eat red meat! They’re creamy, cozy, & totally special occasion-worthy.
FREE Email Series: PWWB Pasta School
Make restaurant-worthy pasta at home!
Seafood Stuffed Shells Recipe Highlights
Stuffed seafood shells are the ultimate seafood pasta dinner! They’re…
SEAFOOD LOADED. Fill the seafood stuffed shells to the brim with 3 kinds of seafood – shrimp, scallops, & lump crab meat (or whatever you love most!) – so every bite is absolutely loaded with seafood.
CREAMY & COZY. Pour creamy seafood béchamel laced with Old Bay seasoning over the stuffed shells, then bake until they’re bubbling & golden. The perfect cozy meal for chilly winter nights!
SPECIAL OCCASION WORTHY. While this seafood stuffed shells recipe is easy enough for any night of the week, it’s especially festive & makes for a great addition to a Christmas, New Year’s or Valentine’s Day dinner menu. Plus, it’s a great dish to keep pescatarians included at the table!
You can’t go wrong with creamy pasta + seafood! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Seafood Stuffed Shells, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
This stuffed shells recipe is all about highlighting seafood! As such, there are a couple of flavor-boosting specialty ingredients involved, but nothing that’s terribly difficult to source – especially if you shop at a grocery store with a nice seafood counter.
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
To make this festive seafood stuffed shells recipe, you need…
- Pasta shells – For the ultimate stuffed seafood shells, use jumbo-sized pasta shells. Not only are they easier to work with, bigger shells = more room for delicious filling! I love DeLallo’s Jumbo Shells.
- Seafood – This recipe calls for shrimp, bay scallops, & lump crabmeat, though lobster, hearty white fish, & langoustines are all great options too! Feel free to use whatever seafood mixture you enjoy most, & if you don’t live near the coasts, frozen seafood is a great substitute for fresh – just be sure to safely thaw before using. See the Recipe Notes, below, for thawing tips!
- Aromatics – Yellow onion & garlic – the ultimate flavor duo – build the aromatic base of the seafood stuffed shell filling.
- Seafood spices & seasoning – Old Bay seasoning is a classic seafood seasoning with hints of celery salt, paprika, cayenne, & pepper – it adds an irresistibly complex kick of flavor that complements the seafood beautifully! Lemon juice & flat-leaf parsley add brightness & freshness while Dijon mustard & mayonnaise give the seafood filling a creamy texture & added flavor.
- Seafood béchamel – Bechamel is a classic creamy sauce made from white roux & milk. The French consider it one of the “mother sauces” of cooking! This seafood version is made with butter, all-purpose flour, clam juice, Old Bay seasoning, & half & half. Clam juice is the key to the sauce’s rich seafood flavor – ask your local fish market for some or buy it online.
- Crispy breadcrumbs – Toast panko breadcrumbs in a tablespoon of butter or two until nice & crisp. Just a sprinkle adds a welcomed crunchy texture to the top of the creamy stuffed seafood shells.
How to Make Seafood Stuffed Shells
This recipe consists of 3 key components: pasta shells, fresh seafood filling & a creamy Old Bay-infused béchamel sauce. Combined, they make a seriously special occasion-worthy seafood pasta dinner – & it couldn’t be easier!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Boil the pasta shells. This recipe uses about 22 pasta shells, but it never hurts to cook a few extras (a couple are bound to break as you stuff them!). Be sure to boil the pasta 2-3 minutes shy of al dente. Why? ⇢ The pasta shells continue to cook in the oven, so undercooking them ensures they won’t turn mushy as they bake. Learn more! 🤓 ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!
Prepare the seafood filling. Par-cook the shrimp & scallops with softened onion & garlic, then combine in a large bowl with lump crab meat, fresh parsley, mayo, Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, & lemon juice to create an easy-to-stuff & flavor-packed filling. Why? ⇢ Similar to the al dente pasta, the seafood continues to cook in the oven as the stuffed shells bake. Letting the delicate scallops & shrimp cook just partially before stuffing the shells helps ensure they’re perfectly cooked once you pull the seafood stuffed shells out of the oven.
Make a seafood béchamel. A French sauce like béchamel sounds super fancy, but it’s really just a simple cream sauce – think of it as a lighter alfredo sauce, sans heavy cream & parmesan cheese. To make this seafood version, create a roux by whisking flour into melted butter, then slowly whisk in clam juice, Old Bay seasoning, & half & half, whisking until a thick & creamy sauce forms.
Stuff the shells. Spread some béchamel sauce in the baking pan to prevent sticking, then set a layer of stuffed seafood shells on top. The seafood filling should burst from each pasta shell – no holding back here! Finish by pouring any remaining sauce on top & sprinkling on crispy panko breadcrumbs for extra texture.
Bake the seafood stuffed shells for about 30 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling & golden brown. Bonus! ⇢ For an extra golden-brown finish, pop on the broiler & let the stuffed seafood shells cook for a few minutes. This happens fast, so keep your eye on it!
Make Ahead & Storage Tips
Make Ahead Stuffed Seafood Shells
Preparing this seafood stuffed shells recipe in advance is an easy way to save time, especially if you’re hosting a holiday dinner or gathering! To make them ahead of time, simply assemble the stuffed shells in a baking dish & store them in the fridge overnight. Given the delicate nature of fresh seafood, it’s best not to prepare the seafood filling & creamy béchamel more than 1 day in advance. When you’re ready to serve simply pop the baking dish in the oven – easy! Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
Storage & Reheating
How long are stuffed shells good for? ⇢ Store any leftover seafood stuffed shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Seafood leftovers don’t last as long, so try to enjoy them while they’re fresh out of the oven! If you know you won’t be able to eat all the leftovers right away, you can also freeze them for an easy dinner down the road.
What side dishes go with stuffed shells? ⇢ While you can never go wrong with garlic bread, Seafood stuffed shells are super creamy & filling, so a few veggie-forward sides can help create a well-rounded, festive meal. A few ideas to get you started…
- A simple green salad tossed with our favorite zippy All-Purpose Vinaigrette or herbaceous Green Goddess Dressing also balances the rich & creamy shells with a bit of freshness
- Sautéed asparagus or green beans
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Creamed spinach or kale
- Make a classic Caprese Salad with basil & mozzarella cheese, or kick it up a few notches with this Burrata Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes
- You can never go wrong with Tomato Bruschetta with Whipped Ricotta Cheese!
We can’t wait for you to try these Seafood Stuffed Shells! They’re so decadent & comforting but so easy to prepare. We know you’ll love them just as much as we do.
If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Special Occasion Dinners
Somewhere along the line, a big piece of red meat became the go-to centerpiece for special occasion dinners, but lately I’ve been on a mission to create some special seafood dinners for our pescatarian & fish-loving friends. Enter: Creamy Seafood Stuffed Shells!
These stuffed seafood shells are decadent, delicious, & absolutely loaded with seafood. Each jumbo pasta shell is filled to the brim with a creamy mixture of shrimp, scallops, & lump crab meat, then they’re smothered in a rich & creamy béchamel sauce laced with Old Bay, finished with crispy panko breadcrumbs, & baked until golden & bubbling.
A few notes to get you started:
- Be sure to use pasta shells labeled as “jumbo-sized,” which are readily available at any grocery store with a well-stocked pasta aisle. I always order from DeLallo; the quality of their pastas is top-notch.
- While the recipe calls for a combination of shrimp, bay scallops, & lump crab, you can definitely stuff your seafood shells with whatever fish or seafood you love most or whatever is most accessible to you. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for some suggestions to get you started.
- If you’re hosting a dinner party or holiday meal, you can prep the seafood stuffed shells ahead of time, but not too far in advance – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.
If you love seafood, I have a feeling that you’re going to be just as obsessed with these creamy, decadent stuffed shells as we are. Happy cooking! ♡
- 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (approx. 22 shells)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ small yellow onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 8 ounces shrimp, thawed if frozen, peeled, deveined, & cut into ½-inch pieces (see Recipe Notes)
- 8 ounces bay scallops, thawed if frozen & cut into ½-inch pieces if necessary (see Recipe Notes)
- 8 ounces lump crab meat (see Recipe Notes)
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ½ lemon, juiced
- seafood bechemel, below
- crispy breadcrumbs, below
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
for the seafood béchamel sauce:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup clam juice (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 cups half & half
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
for the crispy breadcrumbs:
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, ensuring a rack is positioned in the center of the oven. Spray a 9×13 oven-safe & broiler safe casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray & set aside. If using frozen seafood, thaw (see Recipe Notes) & use paper towel to pat as dry as possible. Set aside. Gather & prep remaining ingredients (e.g. dice veggies, measure liquid ingredients, etc.) & set within an arm’s reach of the stovetop.
- Boil the pasta: Generously season a large pot of water & bring to a boil. Add the jumbo shells & cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 2-3 minutes under al dente (“al dente” cooking time is typically included in package directions). Drain the pasta – do not rinse! – & set aside. (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Prepare the seafood filling: Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, prepare the seafood filling. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion & season with a good pinch of salt & ground black pepper as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, until golden & softened. Add the garlic, & cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the scallops & cook for 1 minute. Stir in the shrimp & cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the crab meat, fresh parsley, mayonnaise, Dijon, Old Bay, & lemon juice. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Set aside.
- Prepare the seafood béchamel sauce: Use a paper towel to carefully wipe the skillet used to prep the seafood filling, then return to medium heat & add the butter. Once melted, add in the flour, whisking vigorously to eliminate any lumps in the roux. Cook the roux for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown. While whisking constantly to eliminate any lumps, slowly add the clam juice & half and half to the skillet. Season with 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, & ground black pepper as desired. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened to the point that it coats the back of a spoon (nappe). Remove from the heat & set aside.
- Prepare the crispy breadcrumbs: To a small bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs & melted butter. Season with a good pinch of salt & ground black pepper as desired. Toss to combine well, coating the breadcrumbs with butter. Set aside.
- Seafood stuffed shells assembly: Pour 1 cup of the seafood béchamel into the prepared baking dish, spreading it out to coat the bottom of the pan. Generously stuff the par-cooked jumbo shells with the prepared seafood filling. Nestle the stuffed shells in a single layer in the baking dish, seafood side facing up. Pour the remaining seafood béchamel over the stuffed shells, then sprinkle the crispy panko breadcrumbs over top each shell.
- Bake the stuffed shells: Transfer the casserole dish to the oven & bake 30 minutes, or until the seafood is cooked through, the sauce is bubbly, & the breadcrumbs are golden brown. If desired, turn the broiler on for 2-3 minutes, keeping a close eye on it as it broils to make sure it doesn’t burn, until it’s as bubbly & golden brown as you like.
- Serve: Carefully remove the stuffed shells from the oven. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes, then serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Seafood: The beauty of seafood stuffed shells is that they’re pretty versatile! While we like the combination of scallops, shrimp, & lump crab meat, you can use whatever seafood you like most – provided it’s hearty enough to hold up to a 30-minute bake. Swap lump crab meat with lobster, swap scallops with 1-inch pieces of hearty white fish, swap shrimp with langoustines, etc. – have fun with it & use whatever looks best to you at the grocery store or fish market, aiming for about 1 ½ pounds seafood total. If you don’t live on the coasts, consider using frozen seafood, which is often fresher than what’s available at the seafood counter of a conventional grocery store – see below for thawing guidance.
- Thawing frozen seafood: The fastest & safest way to thaw frozen seafood is to place it in a zip-top bag & submerge in cool water. The steady, cool temperature of the water creates a really controlled environment for the frozen seafood to come up to room temperature. This is better from a food safety standpoint, since it limits bacterial growth. Refresh the water every 10 minutes or so, until the seafood is completely thawed – 25-30 minutes, tops!
- Clam juice: Aside from the seafood, the clam juice is what give these stuffed shells rich seafood flavor. Check your local fish market or purchase online (the brand we use is linked above).
- Make-Ahead, Storage, & Freezing:
- Make-Ahead Instructions: Seafood stuffed shells can be assembled up to 1 day in advance & baked off just before serving. To make ahead of time, complete Steps 2-6 of Recipe Directions above. Allow to cool, then cover & store in the refrigerator overnight. Bake as directed in Steps 1 & 7, above, adding an extra 5-10 minutes of baking time as needed to heat through the center of the dish.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover seafood stuffed shells will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Freezer Instructions: You can also freeze leftover seafood stuffed shells for an easy dinner down the road. Simply transfer leftover the leftover stuffed shells into a freezer container – I love using these freezer containers to freeze individual portions. Freeze up to 3 months.
Keywords: seafood stuffed shells, seafood recipe, stuffed shells recipe, jumbo pasta shells, special occasion dinner, Christmas dinner, Valentine’s Day dinner
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil