I think fall is here. I say “think” because the first week of September was cool and autumn-like and then today it got really humid with a thunderstorm watch. So who knows. However, if you are like me, fall is the time for comforting baked casseroles with lots of cheese. I love mac and cheese, lasagnes, hamburger casserole and even ratatouille. When I stumbled upon this recipe in my recent purchase of The Looneyspoons Collection and had some jumbo shells sitting in my cupboard, I thought I’d give it a try.
Now, this is not a quick and easy weeknight meal. But it is so amazingly delicious that you should definitely try making it. If you’re at home for a day, doing other things, it’s the sort of recipe you can pop into the kitchen to work on from time to time. Other than stuffing the shells (which takes a bit of dexterity), it’s also fairly easy. And everyone in my family enjoyed eating it. So I think it’s a winner!
Creamy Chicken Stuffed Shells (adapted slightly from Looneyspoons)
Warning: This makes a TON of food. The recipe says it yields 6 servings, but I think it’s more like 9. The first time I made it, I used a 9×13 pan and a 9×9 pan and had to squish in some of the shells. When I made it last week, I used 36 shells and made it in 3 9×9 pans (one for me, one for my sister who just had a baby and one for my friend who also just had a baby). It makes a great giveaway meal – just make it up to the point of baking and the person you’re giving it to can bake it when they want to eat.
What you need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
3 Tbsp minced fresh basil or 1 1/2 tsp dried
1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1/4 tsp pepper
4oz cream cheese (half a package), cut into cubes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
30-36 jumbo shells
2 cups pasta sauce
1/2 cup packed shredded mozzarella cheese
What to do:
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the chicken to the pan and increase the heat to medium high. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Then add the carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, basil, oregano and pepper. Cook for a few minutes so the vegetables are tender. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
Stir the ricotta and parmesan cheeses in to the filling. Transfer to a large bowl and chill for about 20 minutes (so that the filling doesn’t burn your fingers while stuffing the shells!).
While the filling cools, cook the shells according to the package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of the pans you plan to bake with. Stuff each shell with about 1-2 Tbsp of filling (basically, see how much you get in there). Place the stuffed shells in the sauce. Once they are all stuffed and placed in, spoon more pasta sauce on top of each shell and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
When you are about ready to bake the meal, preheat the oven to 350F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.