I have been very proud of myself lately in regards to my actions in the kitchen. I have been cooking "from scratch" a lot more, and trying new things instead of the same old enchiladas/tacos/nachos/spaghetti/whatever-else-I-make-but-could-never-name-even-under-gunpoint meals. Pinterest has helped peaked my taste buds in many of my cooking endeavors (jalapeno popper dip, stuffed bell peppers, cheesecake lemon squares, s'mores bars) and the other day I saw a picture of stuffed shells. Checked out the recipe, but it was too complex, or at least for this hectic Mama! So I made my own version, crossed my fingers, and prayed that the kids would like it (they hated the stuffed bells, of course).
Much to my surprise, they gobbled it up. I am talking dinner was over in 10 minutes, max. I call that a success, and they were relatively easy, I will definitely be making them again! I had to share my recipe here just in case you are looking for another easy, healthy-ish meal to serve your family. It also makes a lot, I made an 8x8 and put another 8x8 in the freezer, and I still have a bowl of the stuffing left, I just ran out of shells! Here is the recipe, I tried to write measurements, but when I cook as I go I mainly wing it. You can tailor it to your families tastes if you try this out!
Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells
Makes 3-8x8 pans, or 1-9x13 and 1-8x8 (great for freezer meals!)
Prep time: 30-45 mins (or less, I am just a slow cook)
Bake time: 30 mins @ 350*
1 box large pasta shells
1 jar (or batch) of your favorite smooth spaghetti sauce (I think the absence of chunks in the sauce made the kids love it more)
16 oz grated mozzarella (use the block and grate your own, makes a WORLD of difference in taste)
1 small jar pesto (or make your own, but seriously? Who has the time?)
16 oz ricotta
1 1/2 C. (more or less depending how "meaty" you want it) cooked and shredded chicken (I did this step before hand, earlier in the day and it made the meal prep so much faster)
First step, cook and shred your chicken. Set aside. Set a large pot of water to boil for the noodles. In a large bowl combine ricotta, jar of pesto, 1/2 of the mozzarella. Mix well. Add the chicken and stir till all mixed together. Taste and make sure it's how you like it, you can add salt and pepper here if you so desire. I felt the pesto added enough flavor. Set this aside and finish cooking your shells, cook until tender, but not soggy, you want a bit of firmness to them. When noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water. This helps them stop cooking and makes them manageable for stuffing (you don't want to burn you flesh off on boiling hot noodles!)
Set out your pans of choice. In the bottom of each pan pour a small amount of sauce and spread around to make a thin layer (I did one pan at a time so that I didn't have a sauced pan that I didn't use). Begin stuffing shells, each shell takes a heaping tablespoon or so of filling, you have a lot, so you can afford to be generous. Lay shells touching in your pan. (I got 15 shells in one 8x8). Top stuffed shells with a small layer (1/3 C?) of sauce and then top with 1/3 of the remaining mozzarella. Bake uncovered. Devour!
Of course the putting it together part is all how you like it! Your family likes sauce? add more! Cheese is your thing? Pile it on. It's the pesto in the filling that makes the dish! I hope you try this out and let me know what you think! Oh, and when I freeze mine, I completely assemble, cheese and all, and then freeze in your preferred method.
Not a great picture, but yeah, we dug in before I got the camera out! Yum, yum, yum! (If I do say so myself)