How to Make Smoke Shotgun Shells? A Recipe You Can’t Miss

May 19, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Smoked shotgun shells are a delicious barbecue that combines creamy, meaty, and savory flavors. My smoked shotgun shells recipe starts with parboiled manicotti noodles. These noodles are then stuffed with delicious ingredients and smoked at medium heat on a pellet smoker. 

As an experienced barbecue chef, I learned this tasty recipe in a cooking class and added my own special twist. This pasta and meat mix is one of my family’s favorite smoked appetizers. Here’s how I prepare smoked shotgun shells.

Smoke shotgun shells

What Are Smoked Shotgun Shells?

Shotgun shells, also called bullet shells, are tasty delicacies that are prepared with beef and cheese stuffed inside a pasta tube wrapped in bacon. The shells are slathered with sauce, smoked on a smoker, and served. The outcome tastes amazing. Imagine juicy steak, flavorful sauce, and creamy cheese all in one. Moreover, you can enjoy smoked shotgun shells with other delicious sides or eat them alone.

How to Make Smoked Shotgun Shells?

I love how easy it is to make these tasty shells. Stuffing the ground beef into the manicotti pasta is probably the most challenging step. But it’ll get easier with practice.

Tools You’ll Need

Here are the tools you’ll need to make delicious shotgun shells:

  • Pellet Smoker: I use the Traeger Pro pellet smoker for this recipe. This smoker cooks consistently and imparts a delicious smoky flavor.
  • Instant-read thermometer: A meat thermometer is a must-have if you want to have consistent results.
  • Basting brush: This brush comes in handy when applying brisket rub and BBQ sauce to the shotgun shell.
  • Piping bag: A piping bag makes filling the shells way easier. Another option is to cut off the corner of a freezer bag and pipe the meat mixture into the shells through the hole.


  • 1 pound of ground beef: I use a blend of 85/15 ((85% lean meat with 15% fat) for the ground beef. The meat’s fat will keep it moist as it cooks.
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese: This recipe comes out tasty with mozzarella cheese. This cream cheese is a wonderful choice because it melts easily and has an incredible buttery texture. 
  • 3 diced jalapenos: This adds some spiciness to the dish.
  • 2 tablespoons of barbecue brisket rub: This sauce adds a sweet, savory flavor to the shells.
  • 10 manicotti shells: Manicotti shells are perfect for this recipe. The texture and mouthfeel are simply delicious.
  • 20 bacon strips: Bacon will give your shells their distinctive crispy texture. I recommend using thinly sliced bacon instead of thick-cut bacon because it’s more flexible.
  • 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce: Every barbecue tastes delicious with barbecue sauce. The smoky flavor perfectly complements the smokiness from the pellet smoker.
Beef and Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Roll on the Ceramic Plate


Step 1: Prepare the Filling

First, mix the ground beef, shredded cheese, and diced jalapenos, and add a dollop of barbecue rub. I use Happy Belly’s Smoked BBQ rub, and the spicy flavor is simply delicious.

Step 2: Stuff the Pasta

Next, parboil the uncooked manicotti shells pasta for 5 minutes so it softens a bit. Ensure you don’t boil the pasta for too long as it would come out mushy. After the manicotti is slightly boiled, fill the tubes with the beef and shredded cheese mixture.

In my experience, the easiest way to fill the manicotti pasta with the ground beef mixture is with a piping bag. You can also use your hands to stuff the meat mixture into the tubes.

Step 3: Wrap the Shotgun Shells

When the manicotti shells are all filled, wrap two slices of bacon around the shells. Regular pork bacon is my favorite, but turkey bacon also tastes great. You simply need to wrap each one in two slices of bacon. Once the stuffed shells are properly wrapped in bacon, brush the brisket rub on all the meat pieces.

Step 4: Smoke the Shotgun Shells

Now, preheat the smoker to 250°F. I used my Traeger pellet smoker for this recipe. Lay the wrapped shells on a wire rack, then place them in the pellet grill once it has heated up. You can also place the shells directly on the grill grates. Remember to close the lid of the grill.

Allow the shells to smoke for over an hour at 250 degrees, then raise the temperature to 350 degrees for a crispy exterior. Cook the pasta at this temperature for 10 minutes, then pull them out of the smoker and slather BBQ sauce once again.

Afterward, cook the wrapped shells until the internal temperature reads 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you occasionally watch the shotgun shells while they cook at this temperature so they don’t burn.

Step 5: Rest and Serve

Lastly, stack the smoked shotgun shells on a plate and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Once the crunchy pasta and meat combo have rested, serve and enjoy!

Juicy and Cheesy Pasta Wrap with Beef and Bacon

Tips for Making Smoked Shotgun Shells

Here are some tips to help you make these tasty shotgun shells.

  • Feel free to experiment with flavors. This recipe is quite versatile, so you can substitute the ground beef with sausages, ground chicken, and so on. You can also use cheddar instead of mozzarella and top it with different rubs and sauces.
  • Ensure you thoroughly cover the shotgun shells with any delicious BBQ sauce of your choice. Remember to baste the ends too. A thorough rub will prevent the meat and pasta from drying out.
  • You can always use more bacon strips. Bacon makes the pasta stay moist while it cooks. You can get away with using 3 bacon strips instead of the 2 bacon slices in the recipe.
  • Some chefs prefer refrigerating their stuffed shotgun shells before smoking them. I tried this once and didn’t notice too much of a difference. There’s no harm in placing your shotgun shells in the fridge if you don’t mind waiting. Simply, place the bacon-wrapped pasta in the fridge for around 6 hours.
  • Use the pepper jack cheese if you want more spiciness. This cream cheese is packed with hot peppers and has a creamy texture.
  • You can use cannelloni pasta instead of manicotti. These pasta have some differences, but they work great for this recipe. The open ends of cannelloni shells are cut straight and have smooth sides. Manicotti shells, on the other hand, have tapered ends with a point and ridges on the sides. Lasagna noodles also taste great with this recipe.

How to Make Shotgun Shells Without a Pellet Smoker?

If you don’t own a smoker, you’re in luck! Fortunately, you can prepare this delicious meal in an oven or air fryer.


First, preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the shotgun shells on a baking sheet for 60 minutes on the middle rack, then take them out of the oven, glaze them with barbecue sauce, and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Afterward, insert a meat thermometer into the dish.

If the internal temperature reads 165 degrees, take the pasta out of the oven. If it doesn’t, allow the smoked shotgun shell to cook longer. Lastly, remove the shells once they’re done and allow them to rest before serving.

Air Fryer

Set your fryer to 400°F. Then, glaze your shotgun shells with barbecue rub and cook them in the fryer for roughly 20 minutes. Remember to line the fryer with parchment paper before cooking.

Cook the bacon-wrapped shotgun shells till the internal temperature reads 165 degrees, or until the shells feel crisp on the outside and juicy inside. When the shotgun shells are done, glaze them with barbecue sauce once more and let them cool for 10 minutes before eating.

Manicotti Pasta Shells with Spinach and Ricotta

What to Serve with Smoked Shotgun Shells?

Looking for a simple way to serve these smoked shotgun shells? I enjoy serving them at get-togethers and parties, and my family occasionally eats them for dinner. I particularly enjoy this food with side dishes like:

  • Baked beans
  • Burgers
  • Pizza
  • Smoked meatballs
  • Sweet potatoes

How to Store Shotgun Shells?

Your delicious smoked shotgun shells can be kept for three to four days in the fridge. Ensure you keep them in an airtight container before placing them in a refrigerator cooling at 40 degrees or lower.

If you want them to last longer, freeze them in a freezer-safe container. They should last for up to four months in the freezer.

How to Reheat Shotgun Shells?

Bring out the shotgun shells from the fridge and place them on a baking dish. Slather barbeque sauce on the shells and cover them with foil. Put the dish in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees and reheat for 15–20 minutes.

If you stored the shotgun shells in the freezer, first remove them and place them in the fridge to thaw for 8 to 10 hours. After this, repeat the steps we’ve already discussed.

The Best Wood Chips for Smoked Shotgun Shells

Depending on your flavor preference, you’ll need different kinds of wood pellets. Mesquite or hickory pellets work best for a traditional BBQ flavor.

Alternatively, use cherry or oak pellets for a more subtle, smoky flavor. Apple and pecan are also excellent options if you’re looking for pellets with a sweeter flavor.

Wood Pellets on White Sack

Closing Thoughts

These smoked shotgun shells are incredibly tasty and simple to prepare. Moreover, you can experiment with different ingredients.

You’ll always get tasty results, whether you stuff the pasta with sausages instead of ground beef or substitute mozzarella with cheddar cheese. Remember, you can make these ahead of time and refrigerate them so they’ll be ready to smoke on the grill when your guests arrive!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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