Air Fryer Shotgun Shells: Bacon Wrapped Manicotti Appetizer!

Despite their silly name, these air fryer shotgun shells are a mouthwatering appetizer perfect for game day! Tube-shaped manicotti is stuffed with meat and cheese, then wrapped in smoky bacon and coated in barbecue sauce before being air fried to perfection.

air fryer shotgun shells wrapped in bacon recipe dinners done quick featured image

What Are Shotgun Shells (Food)?

Shotgun shells are given the name due to their cylindrical shape’s resemblance to ammo. However, that’s where the similarity ends, as this popular snack or appetizer is completely edible!

The shape comes from manicotti pasta being used as the base for this recipe. Tubes of cooked pasta are stuffed with a variety of meats and cheeses (usually barbecue, beef, sausage, or a combination thereof).

Then, the entire thing is wrapped in bacon, coated in barbecue sauce, and cooked until the bacon and sauce is caramelized. There are a variety of methods for cooking shotgun shells, which include smoking, baking, and air frying.

holding up an air fryer shotgun shell wrapped in bacon and stuffed with italian sausage

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

These air fryer shotgun shells are a great savory appetizer option. They’re simple to grab and eat as is, but you can also cut them up and stick toothpicks in them for bite-sized snacks. They’re perfect for game day and your Super Bowl party!

Now, traditionally this recipe is done on a smoker. However, if you don’t have a smoker (or hours of time), the air fryer offers a shortcut to getting that delicious, caramelized glaze! I’m going to use some applewood smoked bacon to help add that missing smoke flavor as well.

The thing I love about this recipe is that it’s great for using up leftover meats (especially barbecue)!

You can jam anything in there, like pulled pork, shredded brisket, smoked sausage, or whatever you have. It can also be made with raw meat, like the sausage and beef mix I’m using. So, it’s extremely versatile!

Ingredients List

ingredients to make air fryer shotgun shells
  • 8 ounce box manicotti pasta (14 shells)
  • 14 slices applewood smoked bacon (16 ounce package)
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound Italian sausage (mild or hot)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbsp barbecue seasoning (divided)
  • 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese (approx 4 ounces)
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce

Ingredient Tips and Substitutions

  • You can swap in cannelloni shells (similar, but not ribbed) or cooked lasagna noodles if you can’t find manicotti pasta
  • Any meat combination is fine! Use all beef, all sausage, or mix any other barbecued meats (such as pulled pork, brisket, or burnt ends) you want to use up, or use chorizo for a spicier kick
  • In place of the dried minced onion you can use fresh minced, about ¼ cup (this just saves time and makes for nice, small pieces)
  • Use any barbecue sauce you like, and any seasoning/rub you like. You can also use Cajun seasoning for more heat
  • Instead of colby jack cheese, you can use pepperjack for more heat, or you can substitute cream cheese or ricotta cheese if preferred (or do a mix of a couple)!

Step By Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the noodles. Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat, and once it has reached a rolling boil, add the noodles and cook for 4 ½ minutes (you want them half cooked, so they still have shape but aren’t rock hard). Remove noodles to a baking sheet or rack to cool (this helps prevent them sticking together)
prepare manicotti shell noodles
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, sausage, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cheese, and ½ Tbsp of the barbecue seasoning. Mix well so that everything is evenly distributed
in a mixing bowl combine beef, sausage, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cheese, and barbecue seasoning
  1. Stuff the manicotti shells loosely with the meat mixture (if you overpack, you’ll run out of filling). You can use your fingers or the end of a spoon to stuff them. I don’t recommend a piping bag unless you’ve added cream cheese to make it softer
carefully stuff the meat mixture in the manicotti shells
  1. Wrap the noodles in bacon. You want just a slight amount of overlap on the wrap, as you really want to cover as much of the stuffed noodle as possible! If you have enough to wrap the ends, definitely do that as well
wrap the stuffed manicotti with bacon
  1. Combine the barbecue sauce and the remaining ½ Tbsp of barbecue seasoning in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the wrapped shells in the barbecue mixture
brush the bacon wrapped shells with barbecue sauce mixture
  1. Place the shotgun shells into your air fryer’s basket or rack in a single layer, allowing air space between each one for best results (sauced side facing up)
place bacon wrapped shotgun shells in air fryer basket
  1. Cook on the air fry setting at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. Flip every 5 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce (make sure to get any exposed noodle to keep it moist). Shotgun shells are done when the bacon is cooked to your liking and the internal temperature reaches 160°F
  2. Cool for a few minutes, then cut in halves or quarters if you want to stick a toothpick in them and serve!
overhead view of air fryer manicotti shotgun shells stacked on a plate

What to Serve With Manicotti Shotgun Shells

  • Barbecue meats
  • Burgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Mac and cheese
  • Baked beans
  • Macaroni salad
  • Potato salad
  • Cornbread
  • Coleslaw
  • Extra barbecue sauce
  • Ranch dressing
  • Cold beer
  • Mojitos
  • Bourbon lemonade

In short, anything that you’d typically serve with barbecue is a great choice to go alongside manicotti shotgun shells as an appetizer!

Try my Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs in the Air Fryer, Air Fryer Baked Beans, creamy Air Fryer Potato Salad, or some Pillsbury Cornbread Swirls in the Air Fryer. Wash it down with a Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade or a Blackberry Basil Mojito!

Recipe FAQs

What are Shotgun Shells Filled With?

Shotgun shells are a creative and tasty appetizer made by filling pasta shells with meat, cheese, and seasonings.

They are then wrapped in bacon, coated in barbecue sauce, and cooked until the pasta is tender.

What’s the Best Cheese for Air Fryer Shotgun Shells?

Colby Jack, pepper jack, and cheddar are popular choices. Cream cheese or ricotta are often added as well for additional creaminess.

Feel free to experiment with a blend of cheeses for a richer flavor.

Can I Make Air Fryer Shotgun Shells Ahead of Time?

Yes, you can prepare the filled pasta shells in advance and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours. They may also be individually frozen and stored for 2-3 months.

Air fry them when ready to serve for a quick and delicious appetizer.

How Do You Reheat Shotgun Shells in the Air Fryer?

Reheat shotgun shells at a temperature of 375°F for about 5-7 minutes, until warmed through and bacon is re-crisped.

This works for those previously air fried, as well as baked or smoked shotgun shells.

What Should the Internal Temperature Be for Shotgun Shells?

The internal temperature depends on what types of meats the shotgun shells are filled with. The USDA recommends a minimum of 145°F for pork and 160°F for beef.

If you use a blend, cook to the higher required temperature across the different meats.

What Dipping Sauces Pair Well with Air Fryer Shotgun Shells?

Extra barbecue sauce and ranch are common dipping sauce pairings for shotgun shells.

However, marinara sauce, garlic aioli, or a simple tomato-based dip can complement the flavors as well. Consider serving a variety for guests to choose from.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • Feel free to secure your bacon with toothpicks if you’re struggling to keep it wrapped. Just don’t forget to remove them before eating!
  • You can technically make this recipe with completely raw pasta. However, it takes closer to 30-40 minutes, you end up with really crunchy spots, and the bacon can get overcooked, which is why I highly recommend half-cooking the pasta beforehand
  • If you use thick cut bacon, plan on an additional 5 minutes of cooking time (at least)
  • I can fit 8 shotgun shells in my 8-qt Ninja air fryer at a time. Cook in batches as needed based on the size of your air fryer (and note that cooking times can vary slightly between air fryers)!
closeup of air fryer stuffed manicotti shell wrapped in bacon

Storage and Reheating Tips

  • Store cooled leftover manicotti shotgun shells in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days
  • To reheat shotgun shells, air fry at 375°F for around 5-7 minutes, until the center is warmed and the bacon is re-crisped. Exact time will vary based on your air fryer, your filling, and how you like your bacon

More Bacon Wrapped Air Fryer Recipes

Final Thoughts

These air fryer shotgun shells are the perfect appetizer or snack, especially for game day! You can’t go wrong with meat stuffed in manicotti, wrapped in bacon and barbecue sauce.

It’s a great way to use up leftover barbecue, but equally good if you want to make them fresh. Plus, you can prep them in advance and refrigerate or freeze them, and then just heat and eat!

The air fryer method is much faster than the traditional smoker, and even a conventional oven. You’ll achieve juicy filling, caramelized bacon, and perfectly crispy edges on the pasta (or al dente if it’s under the bacon).

If you love the idea of air fryer crisped pasta, then make sure to check out my Taco Stuffed Shells in the Air Fryer for a similar concept with a Mexican twist.

air fryer shotgun shells wrapped in bacon recipe dinners done quick featured image

Air Fryer Shotgun Shells (Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Manicotti)

These air fryer shotgun shells are stuffed, bacon wrapped manicotti caramelized to perfection! They’re a hearty snack or appetizer that’s perfect for game day!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 14
Calories 218 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 Ounce box manicotti pasta (14 shells)
  • 14 Slices Applewood smoked bacon (approx 16 ounce package)
  • ½ Pound ground beef
  • ½ Pound Italian sausage (mild or hot)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 Tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbsp barbecue seasoning (divided)
  • 1 Cup shredded colby jack cheese (approx 4 ounces)
  • ½ Cup barbecue sauce (use your favorite)

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the noodles. Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat, and once it has reached a rolling boil, add the noodles and cook for 4 ½ minutes (you want them half cooked, so they still have shape but aren’t rock hard). Remove noodles to a baking sheet or rack to cool (this helps prevent them sticking together)
    8 Ounce box manicotti pasta
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, sausage, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cheese, and ½ Tbsp of the barbecue seasoning. Mix well so that everything is evenly distributed
    ½ Pound ground beef, ½ Pound Italian sausage, 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced, ½ Tbsp dried minced onion, 2 Tsp minced fresh garlic, 1 Tbsp barbecue seasoning, 1 Cup shredded colby jack cheese
  • Stuff the manicotti shells loosely with the meat mixture (if you overpack, you’ll run out of filling). You can use your fingers or the end of a spoon to stuff them. I don’t recommend a piping bag unless you’ve added cream cheese to make it softer
  • Wrap the noodles in bacon. You want just a slight amount of overlap on the wrap, as you really want to cover as much of the stuffed noodle as possible! If you have enough to wrap the ends, definitely do that as well
    14 Slices Applewood smoked bacon
  • Combine the barbecue sauce and the remaining ½ Tbsp of barbecue seasoning in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the wrapped shells in the barbecue mixture
    ½ Cup barbecue sauce
  • Place the shotgun shells into your air fryer’s basket or rack in a single layer, allowing air space between each one for best results (sauced side facing up)
  • Cook on the air fry setting at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. Flip every 5 minutes, basting with barbecue sauce (make sure to get any exposed noodle to keep it moist). Shotgun shells are done when the bacon is cooked to your liking and the internal temperature reaches 160°F
  • Cool for a few minutes, then cut in halves or quarters if you want to stick a toothpick in them and serve!

Notes

  • You can swap in cannelloni shells (similar, but not ribbed) or cooked lasagna noodles if you can’t find manicotti pasta
  • Any meat combination is fine! Use all beef, all sausage, or mix any other barbecued meats you want to use up, or even chorizo for a spicier kick
  • In place of the dried minced onion you can use fresh minced, about ¼ cup (this just saves time and makes for nice, small pieces)
  • Use any barbecue sauce you like, and any seasoning/rub you like. You can also use Cajun seasoning for more heat
  • Instead of Colby jack cheese, you can use pepperjack for more heat, or you can substitute cream cheese or ricotta cheese if preferred (or do a mix)!
  • Feel free to secure your bacon with toothpicks if you’re struggling to keep it wrapped. Just don’t forget to remove them before eating!
  • If you use thick cut bacon, plan on an additional 5 minutes of cooking time (at least)
  • I can fit 8 shotgun shells in my 8-qt Ninja air fryer at a time. Cook in batches as needed based on the size of your air fryer (and note that cooking times can vary slightly between air fryers)!
  • Store cooled leftover manicotti shotgun shells in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days
  • To reheat shotgun shells, air fry at 375°F for around 10 minutes, until the center is warmed and the bacon is re-crisped. Exact time will vary based on your air fryer, your filling, and how you like your bacon
  • Exact nutritional values will vary based on brand and flavor of ingredients, any dipping sauces or sides added, and quantity consumed, so please consider this a guideline only

Nutrition

Serving: 76gCalories: 218kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 12gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4.7gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 441mgPotassium: 125mgFiber: 0.7gSugar: 4.2gVitamin A: 69.8IUVitamin C: 1.4mgCalcium: 66mgIron: 1.3mg
Keyword air fryer appetizers, air fryer shotgun shells, air frying pasta, manicotti shotgun shells recipe, ninja air fryer shotgun shells, shotgun shell recipes, shotgun shells bbq recipe, stuffed pasta shells
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air fryer shotgun shells wrapped in bacon recipe dinners done quick pinterest
Katie Vine

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