Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

I discovered stuffed shells a couple of years ago when Sidney was born.  After I got home from the hospital, a bunch of my friends organized meals for me and one of the meals was stuffed shells.  Yuuuuuuuum!  I wasn't much of a cook back them (I'd call myself the reluctant cook now) - the most I'd done with pasta was boil noodles and throw some sauce on it.  So I was very excited to learn that stuffed shells are almost as easy!  Since this discovery, I've made several varieties of stuffed shells.  These little cuties are my latest favorite.  I've made this a couple times now and made some changes from the original recipe on this website.

1 box of jumbo pasta shells
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
Pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (see Notes below)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinara sauce

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2.  In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package.
3.  Cook pasta shells only until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked.
4.  Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

5.  In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, 4-5 tablespoons pesto, shredded chicken, garlic, salt and pepper.

6.  Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish (~ 3 – 4 tablespoons).

7.  Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish.  
8.  In a small bowl combine ~ 6 tablespoons of marinara sauce with ~ 2 tablespoons of pesto.  
9.  Spread the combined sauce over the top of the shells.

10.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of cheese over filled shells.
11.  Cover the baking dish with tin foil and bake shells covered for 20 minutes.
12.  Remove tin foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

This recipe makes 25 – 30 shells.
To cook and shred the chicken, boil chicken in a pot for 12-15 minutes until cooked through.  Remove and use two forks to shred the chicken.

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