Smoked Shotgun Shells Recipe

Smoked shotgun shells are manicotti noodles stuffed with Italian sausage and Mozzarella cheese, wrapped in crispy bacon, and topped off with bbq rub and bbq sauce. Deliciously tantalizing.

Smoked shotgun shells, my sister-in-law said. As she described this new and fun barbeque treat, I was initially trepidatious, then intrigued.

We love finger foods, and anytime I can fire up my smoker and make a fun appetizer, I am on board.

Sausage, cheese, manicotti, bacon, bbq sauce, the smoker. What was this odd thing that sounded actually quite tasty?

Interesting, right?

Why This Recipe Works

This recipe makes a decent amount of appetizer bites. It’s chock full of flavor. The bacon and sausage play very well with the barbecue sauce. The pasta shell still has texture and holds up well.

Ingredients for the smoked shotgun shells.

It doesn’t call for any crazy ingredients. You probably already have everything you need. And if you don’t, a quick trip to the grocery store will have everything you need.

You can also get very creative and mix it up with different fillings. It’s a delicious appetizer that might become the star of your next cookout.

The actual cook time of this recipe is pretty quick as well, which means you can prepare these ahead of time, toss them on, and eat them in less than two hours.

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Tips And Variations

We prepared ours with Italian sausage, cream cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Some fun ways of mixing it up would be using:

  • Hot or mild breakfast sausage with cheddar cheese.
  • A 50/50 mix of ground pork and ground beef.
  • Adding jalapeno, green onions, and cilantro to the meat and cheese mixture would be amazing.
  • Try different cheeses, such as Monterey Jack cheese, Pepper Jack, or smoked gouda.
  • Playing around with the various rubs and barbecue sauces would quickly change it.

This is one of those recipes where you can put your own flair into it and make it your own. The combinations are endless.

How To Make Smoked Shotgun Shells

Set the cream cheese out until it’s room temperature. Shred the mozzarella cheese and set it aside until you’re ready to make the shotgun shells.

Prepare a wire rack with a large sheet pan underneath (aluminum foil-lined, or you may hear it from your wife after).

Adding barbecue rub to the sausage mixture in a glass bowl for the smoked shotgun shells.

Combine the ground Italian sausage, room temperature cream cheese, shredded cheese, and two teaspoons of your favorite rub in a large bowl.

Add the meat mixture to a disposable piping bag with the tip cut off. Squeeze the pork mixture into the uncooked manicotti shells halfway. Turn the pasta tube around and fill in the other half.

note

You can use cannelloni shells if you prefer. They are basically the same. Cannelloni shells are slightly smaller and thinner and lack manicotti shells’ ridges.

Stuffing the manicotti shells with the sausage mixture for smoked shotgun shells.

If you don’t have a piping bag, use any kitchen utensil (we love our Tolovo mini spatula)to stuff the manicotti pasta. We tried both ways, and neither was superior to the other.

You just want to make sure you stuff it completely. Doing one end halfway, then filling from the other end, makes it quick work.

Next, wrap the stuffed shells with bacon. Make sure you cover the entire shell with the bacon. You want the slices of bacon to go to the ends of the shells.

That bacon fat, with the meat mixture inside the manicotti tubes, will soften the noodle during the resting period. This will prevent crunchy spots in your bacon-wrapped shotgun shells. Nobody likes crunchy pasta!

Pro Tip

You can use thick-cut bacon if you like, but we found that using a standard cut offered enough bacon flavor to the dish.

Covering the stuffed shells with barbecue rub.

Place the wrapped shells on the prepared wire rack in a large sheet pan.

Apply a generous amount of your favorite rub. Make sure to cover it completely.

These shotgun shells need to rest for a minimum of four to six hours before smoking. As mentioned, this will allow all the meats to release moisture into the raw pasta.

Our recommendation would be to rest them overnight. If you do this, just cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and pull them out about an hour before you’re going to smoke them.

A tray of shotgun shells about to go onto the smoker.

When you’re ready, set the smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your preferred choice of wood. Honestly, there is no real bad choice here.

I prefer an aggressive hickory wood. I could see apple wood being a good choice as well.

Place the shotgun shells far from the heat source and allow them to smoke for one hour. You can leave them in the sheet pan (we find this easier) or just place them on the grill grates.

After the first 30 minutes, turn the shells (rotate the baking sheet) to guarantee even cooking.

After an hour of smoke, turn the heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes to crisp up the bacon.

Applying barbecue sauce to the smoked shotgun shells.

Once the bacon has crisped up enough for your liking, apply your favorite barbeque sauce and continue to cook at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Once done, remove the shotgun shells from the smoker and allow them to rest, setting up the sauce for about 5 minutes.

Smoked shotgun shells on a brown cutting board.

After that, serve them up.

This bacon-wrapped shotgun shells recipe is perfect for people with a pellet grill or other electric smokers, where you can control the temperature by turning the knob.

But if you’re working with an offset smoker or weber, no problem. Just smoke the shotgun shells over indirect heat. You can easily fire up the oven or air fryer to crisp up the bacon to finish it off.

We liked cutting them into bite-sized morsels. It was perfect. Plenty for everybody to have some bites of this yummy, smoked appetizer.

The piece of bacon with the sausage and cheese and the spicy sweet bbq sauce we used was a fabulous bite. The layers of the flavor came together beautifully.

Smoked shotgun shells on a brown cutting board.

We served these up for a couple of guests who thought they were delicious. So much so that the leftovers left with them.

We have made these with the listed ingredients and made them using breakfast sausage and cheddar.

The Italian sausage and mozzarella, we believe, have more flavor than using a breakfast sausage.

If you did end up with leftovers, store them in an airtight container, then reheat at 325 for about 20 minutes to re-crisp the bacon.

Also, add a touch more barbecue sauce to them. I noticed they were a little dry without it.

Smoked shotgun shells on a cutting board with one cut in half so you can see the cross section.

So, if you’re looking for something new and fun, this is definitely one worth exploring.

After munching and discussing, we thought these would be perfect for those people having a big cookout.

You could do up a couple of big batches and either serve them at your party or take them to the next upcoming gathering of your friends or family.

Either way, they’ll be a big hit.

FAQ

What is a smoked shotgun shell?

A smoked shotgun shell is a manicotti or a cannelloni shell stuffed with a meat and cheese mixture, which is then smoked and topped with barbecue sauce.

How long do you smoke shotgun shells?

They are smoked for one hour. After that, increase the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and top with barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for 15 minutes.

Can you store and reheat smoked shotgun shells?

Yes. Reheat the smoked shotgun in the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Add additional barbecue sauce to increase the moisture.

Other Amazing Barbecue Recipes

Smoked shotgun shells on a wooden cutting board with one of them cut in half so you can see a cross section.

Smoked Shotgun Shells Recipe

Smoked shotgun shells are manicotti stuffed with sausage and cheese, wrapped in bacon, smoked, and topped with barbecue sauce. An amazing smoked appetizer.
4.91 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, barbecue
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 1 shell per person
Calories: 430kcal

Ingredients
 

Mixture

  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 4 oz Mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz Cream cheese
  • 2 tsp Barbecue rub

Shotgun Shells

  • 12 Manicotti shells
  • 1 lb Bacon
  • 1/2 cup Barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup Barbecue rub

Instructions

  • Set the cream cheese out until it's room temperature. Shred the mozzarella cheese and set it aside until you're ready to make the shotgun shells.
    4 oz Mozzarella cheese, 4 oz Cream cheese
  • Combine sausage, cream cheese, mozzerella cheese, and 2 tsp of the rub in a large bowl.
    1 lb Italian sausage, 4 oz Mozzarella cheese, 4 oz Cream cheese, 2 tsp Barbecue rub
  • Add the meat mixture to a disposable piping bag fitted with a large tip. Squeeze the pork mixture into the uncooked manicotti shells halfway.
    12 Manicotti shells
  • Turn the pasta tube around and fill in the other half.
  • If you don’t have a piping bag, use any kitchen utensil that will fit, such as a mini spatula or spoon.
  • Wrap the stuffed shells with bacon. Make sure you cover the entire shell with the bacon. You want the slices of bacon to go to the ends of the shells.
    1 lb Bacon
  • Place the wrapped shells on a wire rack with a large sheet pan underneath. Apply a generous amount of your favorite rub. Make sure to cover it completely.
    1/2 cup Barbecue rub
  • Allow to rest for four hours to overnight.
  • When you’re ready, set the smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your preferred choice of wood.
  • Place the shotgun shells far from the heat source and allow them to smoke for one hour.
  • After the first 30 minutes, turn the shells to guarantee even cooking.
  • After an hour of smoke, turn the heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes to crisp up the bacon.
  • Once the bacon has crisped up enough for your liking, apply your favorite barbeque sauce and continue to cook at 350 for about 15 minutes.
    1/2 cup Barbecue sauce
  • Once done, remove the shotgun shells from the smoker and allow them to rest, setting up the sauce for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve whole or cut into medallions.

Nutrition

Calories: 430kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.05g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 739mg | Potassium: 253mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 231IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg

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40 Comments

  1. Hi there! Do you need to bring these to room temp before placing in the smoker after being in the refridgerator over night?

    1. You don’t HAVE to but I would. All this does affect cooking times a bit. After re-reading the post I really didn’t mention anything like that. I’ll amend it. Thanks!

    1. If you’re asking if you should use a rack or a sheet pan, both work. I used a wire rack on a foil lined baking sheet for ours to make sure the smoke gets all around. If I not understanding your question, let me know. Thanks!

  2. These turned out great! I let them rest about 7 hours, and the pasta was not crunchy EXCEPT (like he said) the spots that weren’t covered by bacon. I think you can add a huge variation of flavors and they’d turn out good. But next time I would NOT use thick cut bacon. All I had on hand, and it’s just a pain to work with and get a good wrap

    1. Sure, you can do that, Naomi. I am sure that most people would prefer them on the warm side. I would eat them at any temperature and be happy. But I also like mac and cheese cold, which freaks a lot of people out. 🙂

      1. You sure can. Just follow the directions as they are but use the oven instead of the smoker. You will miss out on that wonderful smoke, though :/

  3. I made these last night on our smoker, following the recipe, but the pasta came out al dente. Would have preferred them a little more tender. Any thoughts as to what I could do next time?

    1. Hey Julie, I found that allowing them to sit overnight did away with any bits of crunch on the pasta, as long as they’re in contact with either the filling or the bacon wrap. If you want to ensure that the noodles are completely soft, I would recommend that you cook the noodles for a few minutes. Allow them to cool then stuff with the filling.

  4. Great flavor but they were crunchy. But, I cooked the sausage first 🤦🏼‍♀️. Will try again without cooking the sausage and I use turkey sausage.4 stars

    1. Yep, it’s important not to cook the meat first, which helps soften the noodle. As stated in the post:
      “That bacon fat, with the meat mixture inside the manicotti tubes, will soften the noodle during the resting period. This will prevent crunchy spots in your bacon-wrapped shotgun shells. Nobody likes crunchy pasta!”

  5. These look delicious! I don’t want to assume anything here so when you let them rest overnight it is in the fridge right? I have got to try these!

  6. Hi, I saw they can be cooked in the oven. In that case would the noodles need to be cooked or is it still ok to not cook them and bake accordingly. Also I we have a bbq but not a smoker, would it possible to cook it on that? If so what do you suggest…

    1. Hey Kala, the noodles remain uncooked, oven or smoker. And yes, you can do them on your grill as well. I am not quite sure what you have, but to add smoke to your non-smoker, you can wrap some wood chips in some tin foil and get it near the heat so it can ignige/smoke. If you do that, just follow the directions as laid out.

    1. Hey Mama, if you’re gonna do these in the oven, cook them at 325 for about an hour. The bacon should be crisped up by then and the internal temp of the sausage should be reading right around 165 degrees F. After that, coat with your BBQ sauce and put them back in for about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to coat the manicotti noodle completely to avoid and crunchy bits of pasta.

  7. Can you substitute corned beef and sauerkraut and omit the barbecue sauce and either use thousand island dressing or Russian dressing to make them for St Patty’s Day and call them a stuffed Reuben

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