Everybody loves cheese stuffed pasta!

13 Dec

My family is awesome – lets just get that out of the way.  They all know I love to cook, and encourage me when they can.  Matt had to work late on Saturday, so I decided to have sibling night with my brothers.  I asked them where they wanted to go eat, or if they wanted me to cook.  The response I got back was “You cook. Your food is yummy! 🙂 ”  AWW!

What to cook, what to cook…?  I started searching Food Network’s website.  The only hint I got was that they wanted pasta.  After reading over twenty recipes, I found the one: Stuffed Shells with Chicken and Arugula and Creamy Alfredo Sauce.  I’m not much of a fan of arugula, so I decided to substitute spinach instead.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to photograph each step this time.  The recipe is below:

Prep & cook time: Approximately 1 hour

Serves: 3-6 people

Ingredients

  • 12 jumbo pasta shells or 12 manicotti shells (manicotti is easier to fill for me – I cheat and slice them open and spoon the mixture inside)

Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (loooove my garlic press for this step!)
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used the white meat from a rotisserie chicken – SOO much more flavor!!!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halves (I probably used 2 cups – I put the 1 cup into the sauce and then sprinkled another 1/2 to 1 cup in the bottom of the baking dish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil  and add the pasta.  Cook for approximately 9 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water being careful not to break the shells or manicotti. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and Parmesan. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook 1 minute, being careful not to brown it. Stir in the spinach until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped chicken and stir well. Cook for another minute to get the garlic flavor into the chicken and remove from heat.  Let this cool for about 10 minutes. Add chicken mixture to cheese mixture and stir carefully. Stuff each shell with about a 1/2 cup of the cheese filling and place in prepared baking dish.

For sauce, heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant but not brown. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the cream and milk and whisk until mixture begins to thicken and bubble (for me, this was about 7 minutes). Add the chives, 1 cup Parmesan,cherry tomatoes and stir gently until Parmesan melts.  Remove from heat and pour sauce over shells.  Sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is golden brown.

This pasta just melts in your mouth!  The rotisserie chicken enhances the flavor of the dish so much!  I just used the plain chicken, but I bet a garlic & herb or lemon pepper roasted rotisserie chicken would be awesome too!  The grape tomatoes don’t seem like much, but the pop of flavor they give when you bite into them makes the dish that much more yummy!  This dish is honestly really easy – it seems like a lot of steps, but once you get everything laid out and start mixing, the time flies by.  I hope you love it as much as my brothers and I did (and the leftovers were delish too!).

Happy Dishing!

~Des

P.S. By request, I am going to start giving an estimated cost of all ingredients for each dish I make.  I’d say this one was around $20 (I already had several ingredients on hand though like olive oil, garlic, butter, flour… the basics 🙂 ).

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