What did you do last night?

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

Know what we did? Well, what we did after a bunch of work and some cleaning that left me so exhausted that I complained all through dinner? (Shocking.) But… we watched Walk the Line. OMG. One of my all-time favorite movies… EVER. And of course, one of my husband’s all time favorite movies ever too because he is a cahhhrazy Johnny Cash fan.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

Want to know something funny? Well, I find it funny… my husband finds it pathetic… you will just find it annoying… but when the movie first came out, and I was intensely obsessed with it, I bought the soundtrack and only listened to THAT… like not the real songs. Like not the real songs sung by the real artists who were immensely famous for their craft. I decided that I liked the way Joaquin and Reese sang better than Johnny and June. Because I barely knew anything about the REAL people, because I 1.lived (live?) in a bubble, 2. was young and outrageously naive and 3. lacked (lack?) any admirable taste in music.

This almost ended our engagement. Seriously.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

And for the record, most people (with the exception of like, 17-year old girls and 65-year old women) still know I for sure lack any kind of taste in music… especially like when my cousin told me earlier this week that she was going to see My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses in concert and I just looked at her like she had 20 heads. Um whaaaaat? I don’t know any bands about sweaters and ponies.

Okay. Now that I just discussed my sad and boring life for a few paragraphs, let’s get to the good stuff.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

This comes on the heels of one of our favorite dishes – buffalo chicken baked pasta – but it lacks the whole “baking” thing because I was… insanely lazy. And hungry. I can’t not tell the truth. Especially to you, my favorite invisible internet friend. And I couldn’t imagine turning on the oven and WAITING for it to bake. I mean who has the patience for THAT?

Not I.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

And you know… I wish I could say that we ate this as a full meal… but no. I had to make turkey burgers too because this *wasn’t enough* protein for dinner. At least according to that guy I live with. But the good news is that I – me, myself and I – ate it as a meal. With a few chunks of chocolate afterwards. Oh and peanut butter. Just how I roll. Or, err… survive.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com


Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese

Yield: serves 4-6

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into cubes

4 cups whole wheat pasta shells

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup flour

2 cups low-fat milk

4 ounces white cheddar cheese, freshly grated

4 ounces gouda cheese, freshly grated

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped

crumbled bacon for topping


Toss chicken with 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce and set aside.

Heat a large soup-type pot over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and butter, then toss in sliced onions with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until caramelized. While onions are cooking, prepare water for pasta and bring to a boil. I only cooked my pasta for about 5 minutes because it will go directly into the hot cheese sauce. I tried to time it so my pasta was done only a few minutes before adding it to the sauce, but if it's done much earlier, just set it aside in a colander.

Increase heat to medium under the onions and add flour, whisking constantly to create a roux. Cook for 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant, stirring often. Add in milk, whisking constantly, and stir for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in grated cheeses and mustard. Continue to stir until sauce is creamy and cheese has melted. Add in shells and stir to coat, then toss in chicken. Drizzle the rest of the BBQ sauce on top.

Serve immediately with green onions, bacon, parsley and cilantro on top - and more sauce if desired!

Note: this reheats well - just add a splash of milk and stir, stir, stir.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese I howsweeteats.com

Green stuff = health food. Work it.

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104 Responses to “Stovetop BBQ Chicken Shells and Cheese.”

  1. #
    Devon | The Food Bitch Blog — August 23, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    I had a guy (in a band, yes he was hot) tell me one time that there are two types of people in the world – Johnny Cash fans & those who don’t know they are Johnny Cash fans yet. So very true.

    & holy crap that looks amazing.


  2. #
    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions — August 23, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    This looks incredible! I’m so glad to hear that it reheats well — I live on leftovers, and I’ve learned very quickly that everything does NOT reheat well. Blech.


  3. #
    Rebecca — August 23, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

    This looks like a great (and guy-friendly) version of mac n cheese. Yum.

    I also have pathetic music taste and knowledge. I played Quizzo last night with some friends and there was a music category, where they played clips from songs. Guess how many I knew? 2. Out of 10. So sad.


  4. #
    Erin — August 23, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

    You aren’t lazy…you are a genius. I will have to make this on a cheat day because that man I live with only eats slow carbs. This looks gooooooooood.

    Also, when I was younger I fell in love with the soundtrack to Movin’ Out on Broadway. I didn;t want to listen to the Billy Joel versions, the musical was better.

    Sad, I know.

    Erin – ekcantcook.blogspot.com


  5. #
    Rachel@food-hugs.com — August 23, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

    1. This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try it out.

    2. Johnny Cash is the best musician ever.

    3. Walk the Line is also in my top 5 favorite movies OF ALL TIME!

    Love your blog!


  6. #
    Alaina — August 23, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    I loved Walk the Line. But just to show how immature my husband and I really are: we love Walk Hard more. :-P

    And this dish will probably one of the first I make for David when we’re in our new home.


  7. #
    Pretend Chef — August 23, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    Seriously love your blog.


  8. #
    A Splash of Ida — August 23, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Hi! I came across your blog and I love love love it! The recipes are amazing and the photos are so gorgeous as well! ;-) I actually featured your blog and recipes in my Wednesday Colour Splash post today! :-) xoxo

    feel free to visit it here http://asplashofida.blogspot.ca/2012/08/wednesday-colour-splash-foodies-from.html


  9. #
    Sues — August 23, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    This looks SO delicious! I make a fab buffalo mac and cheese, but it’s pretty time and labor intensive. Loving this!


  10. #
    Alli — August 23, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

    I love Walk the Line….Actually I watched it yesterday too…it was the only thing on tv to watch.


  11. #
    Carrie @ Kiss My Whisk — August 24, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    Will you marry me?


  12. #
    Mindy Grant — August 24, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    My boyfriend and I totally watched Walk the Line too!! It’s one of my faves, and I was super excited to see it on tv as I was flipping through the channels! :) This recipe sounds absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to try it!!


    • Mindy Grant — August 24th, 2012 @ 6:37 am

      Oh, and also, if you like June Carter & Johnny Cash, and you haven’t checked out this song yet, you totally should! It reminds me a lot of them. I hope this version plays ok, I’m at a computer without speakers hooked up to it at the moment so I can’t check. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmtmgxk2J1g


  13. #
    Cristy — August 24, 2012 @ 7:31 am

    Is that Bone Sucking Sauce? This looks so. freaking. yum.
    Walk the Line rocks.


  14. #
    angela@spinachtiger — August 24, 2012 @ 7:57 am

    I could watch walk the line over and over, and I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. Even people who don’t like country like Johnny; he’s in a class all by himself. And, your dish looks good.


  15. #
    Jen @ Savory Simple — August 24, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    What a lovely, hearty dinner!


  16. #
    Jocelyn — August 24, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    What a crazy good and easy meal! I love that it is just made on the stove top because when you have hungry kids wanting to eat right away, there is no time to wait for baking!!! And barbeque sauce makes everything better:-)


  17. #
    Alyssa — August 24, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    You had me at shells and cheese & then I saw the bbq sauce & I was really sold! Must make this ASAP!

    BTW, you’re not the only one who hasn’t heard of those bands….but let’s be honest, you can’t blame us for not knowing about a band when they have a name like that!


  18. #
    Noelle (@singerinkitchen) — August 24, 2012 @ 9:15 am

    I just might have to make this for us tonight. YUM! I totally am a Walk the Line fan. Now I want to see it. I also had never listened to Johnny Cash until I watched the movie but even then I only listened to the soundtrack. LOL. I liked their voices!


  19. #
    Marisa — August 24, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    Saw this post yesterday morning, made this for dinner last night. It was fantastic! This and the Buffalo Chicken version are so tasty, reheat and freeze well, and are perfect for a weeknight or weekend. Comforting, cheesy and absolutely delicious! We are cooking/food soulmates!


  20. #
    Paige Colson — August 24, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    Those are bands that play actual music? Hmm…learn something new every day.


  21. #
    Tessa — August 24, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

    One of my favorite meals is macaroni & cheese with shredded pulled bbq pork on top with shoestring onion rings, omg it’s the best and you should make it!!!


  22. #
    Jennifer — August 24, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    Could have some more, please?


  23. #
    Cupcake and Talk — August 24, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    I love Johnny Cash. I was introduced to his music by the band Social Distortion, and am a huge fan.
    This dish looks tasty. Thank you for the recipe.


  24. #
    Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel — August 24, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

    Ugh, I totally wanted to lick my screen. This looks phenomenal, and I’d say more but I’m starving and need to make this asap.


  25. #
    carly — August 24, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

    Looks delicious, but honestly, the first thing I saw was the strange man staring back at me in your stainless steel pot. Weird – do you see it?

    Love your blog, and your recipes!


  26. #
    luv what you do — August 25, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

    I am loving the addition of BBQ sauce to this recipe!


  27. #
    Laura — August 25, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

    I did the same thing with soundtrack ,and will only admit on Internet anonymously that I probably still prefer the Joaquin and Reese versions. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone.


  28. #
    Anita — August 26, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    Only you Jessica could think of BBQ Mac & Cheese. You are killin’ me.


  29. #
    Adrienne Jarrell — August 26, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

    Just made this for the family for dinner. Everyone loved it!!! Very rich and creamy. I think I may need to lie down and take a nap next!!


  30. #
    Lizzie — August 27, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    I made this for my man’s birthday yesterday. He LOVED it, and I knew he would. It’s got all his favorite flavors, and it was very complex. He said it tasted like restaurant food. It was a bit of work and very rich – perfect for a special birthday meal!

    Thanks :-)


  31. #
    sara — August 27, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    This looks delicious. And I did the same thing with the soundtrack from Walk the Line. I know prefer Johnny and June but for a while I was all about Joaquin and Reese. I bought that movie and love watching it – over and over. And singing along!


  32. #
    Allegra @ ItsOnWithZwaan — August 29, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

    As many times as I’ve put BBQ sauce in my mac and cheese I have NEVER thought of this. This is going on the menu for dinner this week!


  33. #
    Ashley — August 30, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    You’ve done an amazing thing. Not only do I dislike BBQ sauce, I also dislike BBQ chicken and cheese. BUT I keep going back to this post and thinking about how incredibly delicious those photos look. Obviously, I have to make this dish. Just another thing to add to my list of guilty pleasures. :)


  34. #
    ricki — January 7, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

    I just made this for dinner tonight and while it was a bit of work (and mess, yikes my small kitchen) but oh. my. glob. it was so good and rich. I used whole wheat flour so it ended up looking a little odd and I added a little more mollensoce the roux seemed really thick for some reason. but it tastes fantastic and I have tons of leftovers :)


    • ricki — January 8th, 2013 @ 2:07 am

      I have no idea what mollensoce is but that was supposed to say “milk since”


  35. #
    Jeff — December 19, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    Yeah, this happened after you reminded me in another post of yours that this recipe was out here and…OMG! It was amazing! Love it! Thanks so much! And I did the usual link back a bazillion times…you know the drill. Yes, my pictures are still awful. :) Happy Holidays to you and Mr. How Sweet!


  36. #
    Dana — December 7, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

    Just made this for dinner and it was DELICIOUS! plus, I have enough leftover for lunch for a week. Can’t wait. Thanks!



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